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…

Fun pictures – Brain & Hart…

Like most working photographers I sometimes take pictures for the sheer joy of it. Sometimes I even get my iPhone out and do fun pictures. From time to time on this blog I hope to ad a few of the silly, odd and downright comical pictures that I sometimes see.

A lot of my favourites are actually not that good as pictures; I am often amused by wordplay in pictures – like this one…

©Neil Turner, October 2011

Table top still life and the news photographer

Most press photographers will have lost count of the number of times they have been called into the office of the newspaper they are working for to ‘do a quick still life’. These vary from the simplest product shot to some interesting concept ideas. I thought that I’d share a few with you here:

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As you can see, I sometimes go to town with them and the stories you see illustrated here are about:

  • The risks of cloning and everyone looking and doing the same (rubber ducks)
  • Managing your credit (cutting up credit card)
  • Handling your savings (fist full of bank notes)
  • The aftermath of a school fire (melted clock)
  • A debate about healthy eating versus too many sweets (cauliflower and mars bar)
  • Reading the fine print in a new employment contract (magnifying glass)
  • Taking a chance with the school your child is going to (rolling the dice)
  • The high cost of housing in certain parts of the country (Monopoly houses on the map)

The main idea is to us decent light, keep the idea simple and not be tempted to try to do too large a picture in the cramped and messy confines of the office. I deliberately added the rolling dice idea because we had some giant dice available, I had an intern to help throw them and there was a nice piece of open ground nearby on a lovely sunny day.

Studio based still life photography is a tough discipline and we still get asked to do creative stuff that should be done “properly”. It has been said that press photographers make great all-rounders because we have to think on our feet and adapt all of the time: I won’t be arguing against that one!