Portrait Photography



The National Portrait Gallery’s Eggleston show raised many issues — about the history of photography, the nature of portraiture and so much more — that it was a natural choice to be our photography exhibition of the year, says Eliza Williams

What makes for an exhibition of the year? The work must be of the highest quality, of course, but the show should also have that elusive aspect, the mysterious something that stays with you long after you’ve left the gallery space. In the case of a historical show, we would also expect to learn something new about the work, and discover a different perspective on the artist.

William Eggleston Portraits, held at the National Portrait Gallery in London from July 21 until October 23, achieved all these elements. Its reviews were ecstatic from the off. “Momentous, trivial, marvellous,” said Adrian Searle in the Guardian, finishing his review by saying simply, “What a great show.” “Devastatingly brilliant,” wrote Louisa Buck in the Telegraph, while Karen Wright in the Independent proclaimed it “confirms his importance”.

Many critics talked of the images lingering with them, and of the complexity held within what are seemingly straightforward shots. “Time and again, Eggleston shows us that a picture of a person is never a simple thing,” said Chris Waywell in Time Out, while Wright continues in the Independent: “Photography can capture a moment, and Eggleston does not just chronicle events but delivers images that are ambiguous, allowing many possible interpretations.”

Untitled, 1970–4 (Dennis Hopper), William Eggleston portraits

Untitled, 1969–70 (the artist’s uncle, Ayden Schuyler Senior, with Jasper Staples, in Cassidy Bayou, Sumner, Mississippi) by William Eggleston © Eggleston Artistic Trust

Eggleston is not known as a portraitist, and in fact this is the first ever show to concentrate on this aspect of his work. It worked brilliantly, perhaps due to the general excellence of his photography, but also because, within a fairly small show of around only 100 images, curator Philip Prodger was able to bring forth all the themes and questions that have followed Eggleston b throughout his career – some of them doggedly – and examine them in a new light.

For Prodger, Eggleston’s work raises questions over the very nature of what makes a portrait. “Eggleston’s photography strikes some as ambivalent and impersonal, insufficiently humane to qualify as ‘portraiture’,” he writes in the exhibition catalogue. “This in itself is interesting, for it makes us look uncomfortably at some of the presumptions on which portrait practice is built. Photographic portraiture gravitates towards likeness – looking at a clear, head-and-shoulders photograph of a person with a known biography at an intimate distance is meant to reveal something about them, to provide insight. It is a romantic idea, ultimately: to look into the eyes of a sitter so that we might peer into their soul. Yet who is to say that at that moment, in that place, from that distance, at that angle, a photograph tells us anything at all about what drives a person, what shapes them, how they think? Or whether such things even matter. Eggleston is the antidote to such over-reaching conceits.”

Untitled, 1970–4 (Dennis Hopper), William Eggleston portraits

Untitled, 1974 (Karen Chatham, left, with the artist’s cousin Lesa Aldridge, in Memphis, Tennessee) by William Eggleston, Wilson Centre for Photography, © Eggleston Artistic Trust

The show features photographs stretching back to the 1960s and its subjects are a mix of family members and friends – some of whom are famous figures – as well as strangers that Eggleston shot on the street. His works are usually displayed without titles and descriptions though Prodger persuaded him to forego this habit for the NPG show, and, where known, identities are revealed, as well as often considerable context.

We are taken into Eggleston’s childhood, via photographs of the family’s help, who became surrogate parents to him while his parents were away. Intriguing characters abound in his later pictures too, framed by Eggleston in a way that speaks always of a wider, unknown narrative. It’s easy to see why he’s been so influential on filmmakers. Writing in the catalogue, director Sofia Coppola sums it up thus: “So many people take those simple snapshots of life, but there’s something about Eggleston that no-one can match. So many of his images I’ve seen over the years stay with me, like a pastel memory from another time.”

Some of the real stories revealed in the show surpass any that could be invented, however. TC Boring, an “eccentric dentist” that Eggleston knew, is shown standing naked in a bright red room, its walls scrawled with text. It turns out this is the room where Eggleston’s famous ‘red ceiling’ image, which focuses on a light fitting, was taken, but the caption also explains Boring’s later fate, which was to be murdered, with his house set on fire.

Other captions are downright gossipy. One painterly photo of two young women on a sofa turns out to be of Eggleston’s cousin Lesa Aldridge and her friend Karen Chatham. According to the caption, Aldridge was comforting her friend who had been rejected by the singer Alex Chilton of Box Tops/Big Star fame, who was also a neighbour of Eggleston (and appears in another portrait in the show). It went on to say that Aldridge then took up with Chilton herself and that their rocky relationship inspired many of his songs.

Untitled, 1970–4 (Dennis Hopper), William Eggleston portraits

Untitled, 1970–4 (Dennis Hopper) by William Eggleston, 1970–74 © Eggleston Artistic Trust

Beside another image, of Eggleston’s girlfriend Leigh Haizlip in tears, we find the caption speculating on the cause, and wondering if it was down to the photographer himself. There’s a risk that these kinds of ponderings and insights could distract from the photographs, or, perhaps worse, fix them in a certain time and place. But Eggleston’s work, by its sheer force, always rises above the trivialities, making them enjoyable to discover rather than interfering with the work.

In an interview with Prodger from 2015, which is included in the catalogue, Eggleston’s belief in his work as being beyond a specific setting is clear. “I do not a bit call myself a documentary photographer because I do not feel associated with people and their problems every day. I’m not [the photo agency] Magnum.”

“So many people take those simple snapshots of life, but there’s something about Eggleston that no-one can match,” Sofia Coppola

The same interview reveals Eggleston’s shooting style, which is quick and anonymous: “You know, it happens so fast, they don’t even know it.” One of the criticisms that has been levelled at him over the years is that his work is just throwaway snapshots. As Adrian Searle points out in his Guardian review, this accusation seems patently ridiculous now. “Eggleston’s photography has been derided for its ordinariness, for its compositional blankness, even for its use of colour. This now seems absurd.”

Untitled, 1970–4 (Dennis Hopper), William Eggleston portraits

Untitled, 1970–4 (Dennis Hopper) by William Eggleston, 1970–74 © Eggleston Artistic Trust

For what ‘snapshots’ they are, if anyone insists on still calling them so. In a world that is now saturated with imagery, where many of us share our photos daily, if not hourly, it is impossible not to be struck by just how keen and clear Eggleston’s eye is. “For most people, ‘just taking the picture’ would result in tedious clichés,” writes Sarah Kent in theartsdesk.com, “but Eggleston has an uncanny knack of spotting those sublime moments when random elements cohere to make the ordinary seem strange or beautiful.”

The other controversy most associated with Eggleston is his use of colour. Alongside contemporaries including Joel Meyerowitz and Stephen Shore, Eggleston pioneered the use of colour in art photography, and caused outrage in 1976 with a show of colour works at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which was cited by the New York Times at the time as “the most hated show of the year”.

Like the complaints about snapshots, the idea of colour photography being so shocking seems quaint nowadays. The show at the NPG tracks Eggleston’s journey from black and white through to using colour, and contains many works created using the complex ‘dye transfer’ process that he famously favoured. Originally used for commercial purposes due to the exceptional depth of colour that it produces, Eggleston spotted the potential of dye transfer in art photography and the works produced here using it truly sing.

Eggleston’s work in many ways tracks the progress of our acceptance of photography, in all its varied forms, as art. And while the old complaints about his work are revisited here – they have to be, for historical purposes if nothing else – it feels that what shines out is his status as an ‘artist’, not a ‘photographer’.

“Duchamp demonstrated how a thing can be thought of as something other than what it appears to be,” writes Prodger in his catalogue essay. “Eggleston took this a step further, by showing that the camera, with its unparalleled capacity to record information in exacting detail, does not have to be used for representational purposes, nor do photographs have to be taken at face value.”

Near the end of the 2015 interview in the catalogue, Prodger and Eggleston muse on how people react to exhibitions, and the lack of control that artists and curators have over this. “In terms of exhibitions, I’ve come to appreciate that people enter them with different levels of information and they get different things out of them,” says Prodger. “Some people will see your show, and they’ll say, ‘There are some interesting, pretty pictures’, and leave it at that.”

“You know, I compare it to this,” replies Eggleston. “Different people have different reactions to certain drugs. One will kill one person while another person has the same drug and they feel better.”

In this instance, with this show, it seems clear that the Eggleston medicine worked for the good.

Outstanding Contribution to Photography From Simon Baker

Article from Creative Review charting the outstanding contribution to photography Simon Baker has made at the Tate by .

Tate Modern hosted two major, critically acclaimed photography exhibitions this year: a retrospective of the work of German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans and The Radical Eye, which revealed Elton John’s spectacular collection of Modernist photography. Poles apart in content, the exhibitions epitomise the commitment that Tate now makes to photography.

Outstanding Contribution to Photography From the Tate's Simon Baker

The Wolfgang Tillman

This was not always the case. When Simon Baker joined Tate in 2009 as its first ever Curator of Photography, the institution’s interest in the medium was pretty low and it lagged behind other galleries and museums around the world in the collection of photographic works. But in just eight years, due to the work of Baker and his team, this has changed dramatically. This achievement is why we have chosen Baker for our Outstanding Contribution to Photography award in the Photography Annual this year.

“When you walk around [Tate] now you do see photography everywhere” Simon Baker

“When I started working at Tate I was really the only person pushing, a really annoying pressure group,” he admits, “constantly proposing things and pushing people to put photography up. And now we’ve got to the point where you actually do see photography everywhere. As a cultural shift, Tate has gone from really having only taken photography b into account on rare occasions to having it as part of its DNA.

“Personally, I don’t regard that as being my achievement – I work in a team, there’s myself and there’s Shoair Mavlian, who’s the Assistant Curator and between the two of us we’ve worked really hard to get photography normalised at Tate. So when you walk around now, you do see photography everywhere, and in displays we haven’t chosen and in exhibitions that we haven’t proposed. As an eight-year achievement for me and Shoan that has been really gratifying and positive.”

Outstanding Contribution to Photography From the Tate's Simon Baker

Wolfgang Tillmans show at Tate Modern, 2017 © Tate

As well as photography featuring in numerous exhibitions, and across the collection in the expanded spaces in Tate Modern, which opened last year, Tate also made the significant acquisition of Martin Parr’s photobook collection this year. An arrangement six years in the making, the collection was purchased with support by the LUMA Foundation and now makes Tate one of the leading institutions in terms of photobooks.

“We’ve literally gone from zero on the world Geiger counter of photobook collections to arguably having the broadest and most interesting and most diverse collection anywhere in the world,” agrees Baker. “That’s so exciting for the future, for researchers and for visitors, and it’s also great for Martin because the acquisition enabled him essentially to set up the Foundation [his new gallery and studio space in Bristol, which opened in October].”

Tate has also shown a commitment to the photobook world for the past three years by hosting Offprint, a photobook/independent publishing fair held in the Turbine Hall to coincide with the annual Photo London event.

Outstanding Contribution to Photography From the Tate's Simon Baker

In addition to his work for Tate, Baker also curated (with Tomo Kosuga) Japanese photographer Masahisa Fukase’s Incurable Egoist show at Arles this year. Photo: Aurore Valade

Offprint allows visitors direct access to photographers and publishers, and also the opportunity to buy relatively cheap artworks direct from makers. “We love the idea that Tate is the ‘off’ venue,” says Baker. “Photo London is a commercial fair for collectors, who are wealthy collectors, and we have this fair at the same time which is for people who can buy an original for £30. That whole world, the world of independent publishing and photobooks, is very friendly, it’s very young, it’s very creative – people design their own books, they publish their own books … it’s a really lovely world and something that we’re so happy to be the home of.”

Appropriately then, the photobook world is one of Baker and his team’s key sources for discovering new talent. “We really do most of our research and our work through the photobook,” he says. “That’s where we b discover people – we go to all the book fairs … we look around, we look at the publishers, we look at the great books that are coming out, we go on juries.

“The next show we have at Tate Modern in May – Into The Light: Photography and Abstract Art – the three youngest artists in that show, who are all in their 30s, they are all people we’ve met through the book world,” he continues. “We’ve seen their amazing, beautiful books and then you go and talk to them…. That leads you to their galleries but it also leads you to understand their work quite fully and quite directly in an unmediated way, because they’re often able to make exactly the book that they wanted, rather than waiting for Thames & Hudson in 30 years’ time to do the retrospective book.”

Outstanding Contribution to Photography From the Tate's Simon Baker

Masahisa Fukase’s Incurable Egoist show at Arles

Baker cites independent publishers as leading the way in the UK in terms of championing new talent in photography. “As a result of London not having a very strong photography gallery context, by comparison with New York for example, the young publishers have become like the talent spotters and curators for photography,” he says. “If you keep an eye on who Michael Mack is publishing or you keep an eye on who Arön Morel is publishing, or Trolley Books or any of these smaller publishing houses, you’re really seeing the best new stuff because they’re making a big effort to find the best people and decide how to support them. That’s the equivalent of our colleagues in contemporary art going round the smaller galleries.”

While 2017 has been a great year in general in UK photography, with galleries including the Serpentine, the Whitechapel and the Science Museum also hosting significant shows, and festivals taking place in Oxford, Derby, Brighton and Edinburgh, amongst other destinations, Baker admits that the UK still tends to lag behind countries such as France or the US in terms of its commitment to the medium.

“We’re certainly not anywhere near the level of France,” he says. “If you think of the Arles festival – admittedly it’s been going for 30 or 40 years – they get the Minister of Culture and usually the President visiting. It’s unimaginable in Britain. I know it’s not comparable but I don’t see the Ministry of Culture and the Prime Minister going to Format in Derby. There is a difference. There’s a cultural attachment to photography in France and America, and to a certain extent in Germany, that we don’t really have. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t have it, just because we haven’t had it historically.”

Baker can see the medium continuing to grow in the UK, and Tate is committed to collecting and exhibiting photography from all areas, from documentary to art to fashion and other more commercial spheres too. He sees photography’s innate accessibility as key to reaching new audiences.

“As art has become quite conceptual and quite difficult for people to engage with in some cases, photography offers people a bit of a hand, a bit of a help,” he says. “If you go to a photography show, you have an understanding of some kind of connection to the real world, and some kind of connection to your own experience, which needn’t necessarily be the case if you go to see a sculpture show or a painting show. The work doesn’t have to be simple, but there’s always a way into it.

“It’s a very obvious thing to say,” he concludes, “but it’s so important that photography is just seen alongside other mediums as equal. When you walk around Tate, it’s just there, next to the Warhols and the Picassos and everything else.”

If you want LinkedIn to work for you make sure you have a professional headshot that is up to the job.

Professional London studio corporate photography

A photo of you taken whilst at a pub/party/holiday/wedding, or one taken on your phone, does not present a professional image and will do more damage to your business profile than you may believe.

Facebook and Instagram photos won’t work as your professional profile pic, let’s be clear on that! Also, be careful not to have anything too cheesy, sultry or flirty. Make sure it’s also recent, if you have 30 years of experience and a picture taken just after university, then clients or employees will notice.

Remember first impressions count, so invest in having a professional corporate headshot taken.

Also you now have the ability to add a background photo so think carefully what to use and how it illustrates your business sector.

professional corporate headshots in London studio

See how we create our LinkedIn headshots.


Corporate Photographers London Website Review

Having worked as a corporate portrait photographer since the early 1990s I have gained plenty of experience from shooting commissions and also marketing and promoting my services. I recently asked for my new corporate photographers London website to be reviewed on a business forum and received some interesting feedback. On the whole the advice was positive and I took these comments on board. One comment lead me to think about my services in a new way for the first time in over 25 years.

The comment was simply ‘what will the client get from commissioning you’? At first I thought that would be fairly obvious from the website that was full of sample portraits I had spent ages selecting as my best work and sure that anyone in business would simply fall over themselves to commission and use for their marketing. Thinking about it again, I realised that my potential clients needed more information and direction as to the processes in capturing their portraits and to their end uses.

My experience had allowed me to know how to get the best result in the quickest time from any commission but unless I can convey that to potential clients who are totally unaware of my experience then how much work could I be missing out on. The more I thought about this the more samples came to mind on several questions that kept recurring when I was talking to clients about future commissions. The most common was ‘We can’t do the shoot here as our offices are a mess’. When clients say this I quickly reassure them with samples of offices we have shot in and made them look great by being selective in what we get in shot and by blurring backgrounds so that office shapes are all you can see in the portrait photos. But this left me thinking if past potential clients had not raised this question with me, how many commissions have I missed out on?

Another query which often comes up is ‘Do you offer make-up services’? And as before I explain that this is an expensive extra and we can retouch in post production to a very high standard included in the cost of the shoot.

These simple and repeated queries are swiftly dealt with but it makes so much more sense to have the as part of my marketing and clear to see on my website. It could be said that the site might become to wordy and nobody likes to wade through lists of information especially on the internet but that is where good website design plays a major factor in getting your services across in a way that is simple on the surface but all the information is easily to hand if a client wants to find it.

The more I looked into these factors the more sense it makes. lets face it most people do not like having their photo taken. In fact I would go further and say 90% of my clients say that they need to get it done but would rather be doing anything else. So we have a client in a position where they need to get their headshot taken normally for business marketing. They don’t know the processes involved and I now understand that it is better to hold their hand with practical guidance rather than to bombard them with a portfolio of our wonderful headshots!

This leaves me in the position of having to redesign our corporate photographers website to accommodate these findings.

We supply the full range of corporate photography services but on the whole most of our work is corporate headshots. Our clients range from individuals who may want a professional LinkedIn headshot to large corporate companies that might want thousands of staff photographed in office locations all over the world. Within this service we offer a selection of five different styles of headshots.

1. Business social media profile photos. These are mainly for LinkedIn and when clients first approach us it is normally with a vague enquiry that they need to get one done, but they have not really given it much thought past the point of what it will cost. I would normally give them a price and send them a link to our corporate headshots page which has a range of different styles. What is interesting here is that they will agree to the cost but not give me any feedback on which of the styles they prefer. I can see now that this is a area where my attending to their needs and explaining the benefits of what we offer is being lost and it is an area I need to address.

LinkedIn profile photos London LinkedIn profile photography Mayfair financial sector corporate headshot

2. London location headshots. This is service we introduced about 3 years ago and was aimed at clients who wanted to show they worked in London and we would subtly feature elements/views of London in the background. These have become popular with individuals who might not have office in The City but often work in London as consultants. We have also seen interest from overseas business people who want to show they also work in the UK financial sectors. The interesting factor with these is that we have had clients who have large numbers of staff and they have requested this service. This is not always ideal as it can mean the client has to arrange the logistics of getting all their people out of the office and this can be impractical.

Corporate headshots with St Pauls by London photographers Business portrait with London backdrop Corporate headshot by The Thames

3. Photoshopped London background headshots were offered this year to get around the problem that faced large offices of people who wanted the London backdrop. It also meant the client could choice the from our range of backgrounds and the headshots would be shot in their offices against a plain wall and we would photoshop in the London views in post production. This process is visible on the site but needs to be better in the way we expalin to potential businesses the benefits of the service.

City of London headshots by corporate photographers City of London business headshots


4. Studio headshots. These we offer if the client wants the ‘studio’ effect with and the benefits of controlled lighting. Many of our clients assume that to get a professional photographers headshot it must be taken in a studio. This really is not the case and we often advise against this style as it is not contemporary in our eyes as we prefer to capture a flattering headshot in a real business environment. Here again I need to explain the benefits of us attending the clients offices with our pro lighting set up. It is less time consuming for the client as we can set up in a empty office and the sitter only has to attend the shoot for approx 10 -15 mins and incurs the same charges as they would if they were to take a couple of hours out of their busy day to attend our studio.

corporate headshots in London studio London studio corporate photography London studio corporate photography

5. Reportage or natural headshots. These are proving to be very popular with start-up companies and clients who like to show an open door to potential business. We have a formula that works very well and allows us to capture very natural and also known as ‘action’ shots of business people going about their day to day work. This looks simple but is in fact time consuming as the photographer is waiting for the natural moments to happen and not able to control the session as easily as posed headshots. Again this is a process I need to explain to clients as it is often assumed these take a couple of minutes to capture and that they have been staged.

reportage corporate photographers London reportage business headshots London

This leads to me to the redesign of our current corporate photographers London website. I need to site to showcase our portfolio and I need to be able to get all of the above points as well a pricing, our team of photographers, my role in the company, how commissioned shoots proceed and complete.

Let me start with the team of photographers. There are eight in total and all have the ‘in house’ style for shooting our headshots and corporate events. In the past I have had a page for the photographers with sample portfolios for each photographer. This did not work as at no point did a client request any particular photographer. I feel now that clients coming to our site do not have the time to go over eight portfolios and therefore this has to be changed to showing that we have a great team with strength in numbers and able to cover all commissions on any dates, but also not swamp the client with portfolios of individual photographers.

Pricing is a difficult area as 90% of our competition do not show their rates on their website. Currently we do not display our fees but we need to give the client an idea of pricing structures, how we charge our time, what is included in the quote and what extra expenses will or maybe charged. Then there is post production rates which need to be explained as often clients will not be aware of what can be done and how much it will cost.

Although I still undertake corporate photography commissions my role is now more handling quotes, assigning photographers to jobs and handling post production and invoicing.

This is a simple process of a single commission.

Pre shoot procedure.

Please wear something you are comfortable in and avoid wearing white shirts if you are not going to be wearing a jacket as they appear too bright in the final images and can look washed out.

Please advise us if you have a certain style or background you require for your headshot and if it has a particular usage. Unless otherwise directed we will replicate the style found on our website.

Shoot procedure.

It takes 10 mins to set up equipment and normally 15-20 mins per person for a portfolio of approx 20 images. Within these 20 photographs we will do a variety of poses and expressions so you have a good choice to select from.

Post shoot procedure.

We will email you a full portfolio of preview images with our invoice. Once the invoice is paid we will email a high res image download link.

After you have made a selection of 2 images from the high res please email the original file numbers to us and we will standard retouch the images and return them.

I am currently looking and working with website designers to restructure our current site and interested in talking to any web designers who have ideas and processes that could assist me with my new aims. Past experience with working on photographers sites is not important but an understanding of my aims and creative input to some of the areas I need to address is required.

Please see our client reviews on our corporate photographer London page.