Editorial

New work (at last)

Portrait of TJ Okor

TJ Okor is a final year Physiotheraphy student at the University of Winchester. ©Neil Turner. September 2020

I’m pretty sure that everyone is fed up of hearing that work has dried up, incomes have suffered and how frustrating it is being a creative at the moment. I’d like to say that the work has started to flood in again but that wouldn’t be true. Happily a couple of clients have picked up the phone and booked some work and so I thought that I’d show one of the most recent bits of imperfect portraiture and talk a little bit about it.

The young man featured in this set of portraits is a Physiotherapy student in the final year of his degree and I was asked to go and shoot a (socially distanced and safe) portrait of him to go with a piece about Black History Month to accompany an article about people in the professions and how they have experienced racism and discrimination over the years. There has been an awful lot said and written about whether this kind of work should be shot by BAME photographers and I have an open mind about the subject but I felt that I’d do a good job and so I went along to meet him and we walked to a park very near where he lives in Hampshire and where he had been exercising whilst his gym was closed. (more…)

Marsha Hunt – the contact sheet

Photo: Neil Turner/TSL Education. October 2005.
Marsha Hunt photographed at the home of her friend in St John’s Wood, London

As I get towards 100 imperfect portraits added to my Instagram feed I have had lots of nice messages about the pictures and the stories behind them. Along with those I have had a few requests for more of the ‘contact sheets’ such as the Dennis Healey one that I added to this blog last month. My portrait of Marsha Hunt has had three requests so I thought that I’d so that one first.

When I posted this on Instagram I added the following words;

It is hard to think of actress, model and writer Marsha Hunt without thinking about Patrick Lichfield’s photograph of her taken when she was starring in the musical “Hair”. In October 2005 when I arrived at the flat where she was staying in London I was a little surprised by her baldness but she has the most amazing presence that I forgot about it is seconds. The shoot was fun and she was just about the most professional subject I have ever been asked to shoot. It was tough to choose which frame to post but this one really shows how she was on the day.  #lovemyjob #portraitphotography #archive #locationportraiture #editorial #canonukandireland #digitalevolution #imperfectportraiture  #timeseducationalsupplement

This is quite a wide edit but you can see that we didn’t change locations during the shoot at all. There were two reasons for this; the first is that Marsha had been having treatment for cancer and not been that well so we decided that once we had our location, we would work it. The second is that it wasn’t her home so nothing in the background added much to the story anyway.

The eagle-eyed lighting geeks amongst you will notice that the position and angle of the light changes a fair bit and that’s something of a feature of the ay that I shoot this kind of work – always fiddling with the (normally single) light source and combining it with the ambient in different ways as I go.

Technical notes: All of the lighting was with a single Lumedyne battery powered head and pack with a shoot-through umbrella on some and a 60cm x 80cm Chimera soft box on others. The cameras were Canon EOS1D MkII bodies with 16-35 f2.8L, 24-70 f2.8L and 70-200 f2.8L lenses

Dennis Healey – the contact sheet

Lord Dennis Healey taking a photograph of the photographer. ©Neil Turner/TSL

When I have been posting archive portraits on Instagram and Facebook I have been including a few memories of each job. On more than one occasion I have commented that it was a tough job picking a single frame from a shoot and one of my colleagues contacted me when I posted  a frame of the late Dennis Healey to ask me to post a wider selection from that job. I thought that it would be best to show the whole edit as it was sent to the magazine in the form of a ‘contact sheet’. (more…)

Imperfect Portraiture

Pascale Allotey, Professor in Race and Diversity at Brunel university in west London.© Neil Turner/TSL November 2005

I have had the title for this piece rattling around in my head for several weeks now but before I dive in I want to explain that it is about a certain style of editorial portraiture that appeals to me. It is equally important that nobody reading this thinks that I believe other forms of portrait photography are somehow inferior or are “less portraity”.

I suspect that every sentiment that you will read in this mini-essay will have been expressed somewhere on my blog at some point in time. After all, if you did a search for the word “portrait” on this site you would get hundreds of hits. From explaining the anguish of editing your own work to my definition of what is and is not a portrait. I have written about why this kind of photography speaks to me so loudly and so consistently but I have wanted for some time to bring all of those thoughts and impulses together. As always, there are two reasons for doing this; the first is to stimulate thought and debate amongst those who care to read it and secondly to help me further clarify my own opinions and, by doing so, make my own work better.

Of course there isn’t a strict set of rules about what constitutes a portrait. Back in 2011 I wrote this; (more…)

More about archiving

Interview portrait of Lady Helen Brook, founder of the Brook Advisory Centres which gave advice to young women about contraception starting in the in the 1960s, aged 85 at her home in north-west London. 05 May 1993 Photo: Neil Turner

Here we are in day sixty-something of the UK Coronavirus lockdown and I’m still ploughing through my very old work and trying to knock it into a usable archive. There are a number of stages to the process and stage one has been to make a detailed catalogue of somewhere approaching three thousand rolls of negatives from dates on the negative sleeves married up with my old (Filofax) diaries and a few memories kicking around in my head. Stage one is now pretty much finished. There are a few gaps where I cannot work out the exact details of when and where pictures were taken and there are a lot of sheets of negatives missing where the films were processed in newspaper darkrooms and I never got them back.

What I have done as a first step is to create a spreadsheet with columns for the film number, date shot, client who commissioned the job or if it was a self-funded project, a generic caption for the whole sheet of negatives, specific frames where applicable and the digital filename range of files created. From there I can import any or all of that data into the IPTC metadata once I get to the captioning of those images. There will be some rolls of film that will never be touched and there are others which will be given a lot of attention. (more…)

I need people in photographs

Children play football with an improvised ball in the Copperbelt of Zambia. ©Neil Turner/TSL.

Like most members of the photographic profession, the bottom has dropped out of my business and any and all photography bookings between the first week of March and the end of July have been postponed or cancelled. Not my fault, not my client’s faults either so I’m being pretty calm about it and getting used to being in lockdown. Lots of my news photographer friends are out there day after day coming up with fabulous picture to illustrate the only story that anyone is interested in – the Coronavirus Pandemic – and I applaud them warmly. That applause goes for the health workers, retailers who are at work, the emergency services, delivery drivers, refuse workers and every other key worker who is there doing their jobs to keep society ticking over and, more importantly, safe.

Again, like most members of the photographic profession, I am looking back through old images of mine to remind myself what it is about the job and making the pictures that I love so much. I’ve also been looking through some of the hundreds of photographic books that line the shelves in my home and it has taken almost no time at all to re-affirm what I already knew: (more…)