Tuesday, 9 April 2013

RIP Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, LG, OM, PC, FRS was a British Conservative Party politician who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and the Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990.

Book of condolence at Grantham library

I remember photographing Mrs Thatcher receiving the freedom of the city of London back in May 1989. At the time I was freelancing for some eleven different publications. My remit on this day was to cover it for the City of London Recorder newspaper
The press pass that I was issued with allowed me a position right at the back of the ceremonial hall on a balcony about ten meters high with three other 'togs.

Press pass

No flash and no tripods was the order of the day so that meant high film speed. The event was also being covered by television so there was just enough light to get away with using 1600 ISO.

My next problem was the timing. I had to get the images to the newsdesk as soon as possible. In those days I would usually drop off my unexposed films to the various newspaper's darkrooms and have them process and print them up for me. The city of london Recorder was a small publication and didn't have any darkroom facilities. I solved the problem by booking myself some darkroom time at the Photographers Gallery about half a mile from the event itself. Back then, you could hire a communal darkroom for a couple of hours for quite a cheap price and it was quite near to where the event was taking place.

To further save time, I decided to use Ilford XP2 chromogenic film. This was becoming my main black and white film for newspaper use when time was of the essence. Although it was monochrome, it could be developed in C41 chemistry of the type usually used for colour negatives. It also had an extremely wide exposure latitude. In essence, this meant that i could do a job in bright sunlight with my camera meter set at 100 ISO, go to my next job indoors and use 400 ISO and then finish off shooting a floodlit football match at 1600 ISO . . . ALL ON THE SAME ROLL!

So on the day, I turned up early (as I tried always to do) and was shown to the small balcony that I'd be sharing with my three colleagues representing her majesty's press. I could see why tripods weren't allowed. There was barely room to stand. As I was first to arrive, I blagged the position by the railing.

Soon after, my three companions arrived and began complaining about the space allotted to us. I didn't mind because I was in front :o)

Then the ceremony began and we noticed another problem. Mrs Thatcher was wearing a wide brimmed hat. From our vantage point at the back of the building and from ten meters high, we could only see her chin! 

This meant that we had to constantly look through the viewfinder and be ready to fire off a burst when she glanced up. I was using my canon T90 coupled with a 300 mm f4 telephoto lens which was ideal. As a form of insurance I took photos of the other dignitaries in the audience in case I wasn't able to get an image of the lady herself.

In the event, I shot a full 36 roll and only got her face on three exposures but this was enough for me. When the ceremony ended, I took off to the nearest photolab and had my negatives processed. From there I ran to the Photographers Gallery and ran off five or six, ten by eight enlargements which I delivered to the editor two hours after the event and well before deadline.

Both images. Canon T90 EF 300mm f4
1/125sec @ f4 1600 ISO

 This was used large in the 'paper

So that was my small experience photographing "The Iron Lady". As I heard someone on the television this morning, "Like her or loathe her, she won't be forgotten. "

Thanks for reading.

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