No such thing as professional?


Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Meyer made a stupid remark yesterday whilst announcing a complete overhaul of their Flickr photo-sharing website service. She actually said was that “…there’s really no such thing as professional photographers anymore”. Like many people who used to think that they were professional photographers I became very angry.

What I’d love to happen next is to get commissioned to shoot her portrait for a major newspaper or magazine and to prove her wrong. That’s unlikely to happen, which is a shame. Within a few hours of hearing what she had said I had deleted my Flickr account and let my Twitter followers know that I had done it and why I had done it.

Did Ms Meyer really mean to upset hundreds of thousands of hard-working professionals? Does she really think that our profession has ceased to exist? I suspect that what actually happened is that she made her remark with the subtlest of hints of humour in her voice in order to promote her company’s new-look product. I doubt that it has done too much harm but why do corporates continually keep doing this kind of thing? Gerald Ratner famously compared his company’s gold jewellery to  a prawn sandwich wiping millions of pounds off of its share value and ultimately leading to his downfall. Time after time people at the top who believe their own hype and who think that they can be funny in order to sell their products make this same mistake.

Flickr’s owners won’t apologise. They have sought to make light of her remark because it was ‘light-hearted’ – or at least it was light-hearted in her mind. At a time when the value of photography is, in many ways, at an all-time low the owner of one of the biggest sites based on photography has unwittingly reinforced that perception. Stupid and un-thinking throw-away remarks do damage in ways that only become apparent over time

My business model isn’t based on Flickr. I had about thirty folio images up there simply because it probably pays to have a presence on all of the social media sites. I have probably shot myself in the foot by deleting my account but anger leads to gesture and the biggest gesture that I could make was to leave Flickr.

The point that I really want to make here is that photography does have value. Good photography is, in fact, invaluable. Maybe if the Board of Yahoo realised that they’d actually get their CEO to apologise.

Headteachers or whatever you want to call them…

Almost everyone remembers their head teacher. If they don’t then they will probably remember the Principal, Headmistress, Headmaster, High Master, High Mistress, Direktor or whatever other title the person who led their schools went by. Since 1986 I have photographed hundreds of these people and I have made the journey from being a little bit scared of them through accepting them to being impressed by the work that they do and the huge difference that their being good at their job makes to children and young adults.

I decided to put together a slideshow of some of the headteacher portraits that I have done. Most of the portraits date back to my time at The Times Educational Supplement. I also made the decision to keep them anonymous – I just wanted to show how different they are yet how much they have in common. Some of the Heads featured in this selection are famous in the world of education and one or two have been made Knights or Dames for their services to education. A few have since retired but that doesn’t matter. I don’t want to suggest that the person in charge is the only reason that some schools are better than others but I have yet to visit a successful school that doesn’t have first rate leadership.


It’s been a while…

Sitting here almost half way through December it’s hard to believe that I haven’t published anything on this blog for five months. I promise you that it wasn’t because I had run out of things to say or that I hadn’t been doing anything!

First of all there were the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. I spent the whole of the summer – 13 weeks in all – working in the Main Press Centre on the Olympic Park on the Photo Help Desk and in the Photo Workroom as part of the Photo Operations team. Very long days, a lot of hard work and only a handful of days off more than compensated by the sheer joy of being right at the centre of an absolutely amazing event.

Imagine spending all of that time being surrounded by photographers, other photo operations team members and a vast cast list of people equally as passionate about photography as I am? I got to meet hundreds of top class professionals and make a lot of new friends. Before I left for Stratford my wife gave me a little blue book entitled “Jetsetters that I met and liked” and I’m happy to say that it is full of comments and messages from many of the amazing people that I worked with and for. Bob Martin, the London 2012 Photo Chief, put an amazing team together and it appears that we did a great job.

Lots has been said and written about the thousands of volunteers who made the Games happen and I’d like to add a few words of my own. The twenty or so volunteers that were part of our Photo Workroom and Photo Help Desk team were simply AWESOME. They grafted, they smiled, they brought an incredible array of talents and skills and they achieved a level of service that we couldn’t have provided without them. We had teenagers, undergraduates, graduates, professionals on a summer break and an amazing nucleus of people who had retired from very challenging and impressive jobs. We had linguists, teachers, journalists and communicators and the balance between all of those talents meant that we could have accomplished almost any task.

There is so much that I could say about my three months wearing purple. I could talk about the moment that the whole world shook as the first fireworks of the Opening Ceremony went off less than 200 metres from our building. I could list the stars and officials who passed through on their way to press conferences and briefings. I could even try to put into words the sheer joy that I felt every time I went into one of the sports venues. Being part of the London 2012 operation was a very special and emotional experience and I am sure that nothing will ever come close to replicating it. All good things come to an end and I returned home with my bags of souvenirs, my little blue book and all of my memories only three days after the closing ceremony for the Paralympic Games.

Returning to my day job was how I thought of it but, having been away for three whole months, it was never going to be easy. A couple of my regular clients had turned to other photographers in my absence and a couple of jobs that I thought were booked-in got cancelled. I hadn’t seen family or friends much or even at all since June and there was a lot of catching up to do – and that’s what I’ve been doing for the last three months. That is the reason why I’m writing this today; the same amount of time has passed since I came back to earth as I was away. It has taken that long to get things straight.

I’ve been teaching Photojournalism at Up To Speed Journalism in Bournemouth and I’ve done a couple of seminars. I’ve written a couple of pieces about photography and I have embarked on a new phase in some photo-consultancy work that I was doing immediately before London 2012 took me away. Most importantly on a professional level I’m back shooting editorial and commercial pictures and it is when I’m wearing that hat that I’m happiest. The Leveson Inquiry has reported and I have been working my way through all 2,000 pages. It’s hard to believe that it was over ten months ago that I sat there in that chair in that room to answer questions. Lord Leveson’s report has raised quite a few more that our profession needs to answer and that is yet another challenge yet to be faced.

I had wondered whether working with and for photographers would change how I felt about the industry. I had wondered if I would try to find things to do that used some new found skills but I haven’t. I’m sure that I’d enjoy working in a photo operations role again and if any opportunities present themselves I’d be interested but it’s not going to be my principle career choice – taking pictures remains my number one professional love.

So what next? The portfolio career is here to stay for a while – that’s a certainty. Speaking of portfolios, a new editorial folio is right at the top of my “to do” list. Just below it is a new commercial folio, some work on my website, a return to blogging and tweeting and I’m going to get on with all of those just as soon as we’ve had a family Christmas.

Thank you to everyone who has been in touch to make sure that I’m OK and that my lack of blogs and tweets wasn’t a sign that I was either unwell or going away. Thank you to everyone who has found me work to do since I got back from Stratford. Thank you to everyone who I worked with and for at London 2012 and, most of all, thank you to my family and friends whose hard work meant that I could spend three months wearing purple without having to worry about a thing.

Rubbish on Oxford Street

I was having a rare day off on Saturday and after a fantastic lunch in London’s China Town I walked up to Bond Street underground station to get a tube train back to where I am staying in Mile End. I usually carry a compact camera with me (still using my venerable Canon Powershot G9 most of the time) and just outside the station I saw this amazingly full and overflowing rubbish bin. It’s not often that I capture a compact camera picture that goes beyond the family album…

©Neil Turner. Oxford Street, London July 2012.

I took the picture “just because” but the more I looked at it, the more I realised that things like litter and other urban issues that don’t make the headlines absolutely fascinate me. My next thought was that images like this fill stock libraries and that I really should make more effort to shoot good generic images and submit them.

I’m no great fan of Westminster City Council who run this part of London but I admit that they have a tough job and you can see that the vast majority of the waste is fast-food wrappers and packaging. There probably isn’t an easy answer – they are fighting an uphill battle there and very little of the waste is dropped by local people. It’s a tourist area and a shoppers’ area and you might draw the conclusion that those two groups of people are less invested in keeping the place tidy.

I actually thought about labelling the post “off topic” but the  I decided that as it’s my blog, I get to choose what the topic is!

Fun picture – pigeons checking each other out, Bournemouth

©Neil Turner. February 2012. Bournemouth

I don’t know if spring is in the air but these two pigeons outside a supermarket in Dorset this morning look as if they were rehearsing for Valentines Day next week.

Fun picture: bird house to let

©Neil Turner. February 2012, Bournemouth

Completely staged photo opportunity this morning in Bournemouth…