portrait

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…)

Archive Portraits on Instagram

Vivienne Westwood, fashion designer, photographed in her London studio after she had been celebrating with her team having won yet another design award. October 1990. Photo ©Neil Turner

Over the last few months I have been devoting an awful lot of my time to building up an archive of my professional work from when I left college in 1986. There are plenty of gaps and there have been lots of surprises – images and commissions that I had long forgotten and it occurred to me that my Instagram feed was looking a bit sorry for itself and so I started to add portraits that had something of a back story. That was a couple of weeks ago and there will be photographs on that feed that regular readers of this blog will recognise but, equally, there will be some very unfamiliar portraits that haven’t seen the light of day in many, many years. (more…)

Archive surfing

The photo that became the first technique example on my first website in April 2000. ©Neil Turner/TSL

Like so many of my colleagues the Covid 19 Pandemic has robbed me of almost all of my work. 2020 was looking to be a great year with lots of interesting projects but from the moment that the first lockdowns started to swing into action across the world my assignments and projects started to get postponed and cancelled at a very rapid rate. As I sit here I have nothing booked for the rest of the year.

The other thing that I have in common with a huge percentage of those colleagues is that I have been giving some more attention to my archives. I had several months off in 2017 and so my digital images are already well protected and catalogued so I have been looking at transparencies, negatives and back ups of my old digital life. (more…)

Mission Creep

I have lost count of the number of times I have agreed the details of an assignment with a client only to find out that they want to add a few “little extras” on the day of the shoot. Sometimes it is a job where we agreed to do a dozen headshots only to find out that they’ve added another six or seven. It can be a school prospectus shoot which was meant to end with the school day where, over a cup of coffee, they casually add an after-school club that doesn’t start until after you were supposed to be off-site. In the most extreme case I can remember it was to do half of the job in central London and the rest of it a two-hour drive away on the outskirts of Coventry.

The military term “mission creep” sort of covers this except that most definitions use the word “unintentionally” whereas this kind of “job expansion” is pretty often entirely intentional. How you handle this regular occurrence says a lot about you as a photographer and can define your relationship with that client for years to come. What might seem as a harmless addition to the brief can leave you with extra work, less time to shoot parts of the original brief and can get you into a row with the client.

For me the worst part of mission creep is the almost inevitable additional time that will have to be spent in post production. It stands to reason that even if you can shoot extra pictures in the time given for the job there will be a greater number of images to be sorted, captioned, cropped and toned. The client almost always ends up getting what they perceive as more pictures for the same fee. (more…)