Saturday, 3 February 2018

Terry Dennett (1938-2018) Photographer & Social Historian

Terry Dennett, who passed away recently, would have turned 80 on 4 February. There will be a service at the Islington Crematorium, 278 High Road, East Finchley, at 11 a.m. on Wednesday 7 February. 

We first met at TPW - Toronto Photographer's Workshop, at a comprehensive Jo Spence retrospective in 1997, where Terry was speaking about the legacy of her work and their collaborations. Over the next 20 years, Terry became a mentor and dear friend, always sharing his wide ranging photographic knowledge generously. 

Terry Dennett in 2012 at Jo Spence (Part 1) in London, Space Studios

Training originally as a painter, for decades Terry worked as staff photographer at the London Zoo, where he had a colour and black & white darkroom and a 9 to 5 job. He also had, what he referred to as his second 5 to 9 job, and would regularly collaborate on projects with researchers, including Shaheed Macgregor, on Eating Rough, Sleeping Rough, a pop-up exhibition made in support of a campaign to address homelessness and raise awareness in the 1990s.

Project slide from Eating Rough, Sleeping Rough

Terry was also the dedicated and tireless founder/keeper of the Jo Spence Memorial Archive which he ran for 25 years, ensuring Jo Spence' lasting legacy. Terry eventually oversaw the safe deposit of her research material, at the Toronto's Ryerson School of Image Arts Archive research centre, at London's Birkbeck institute, and also with Richard Saltoun Gallery. 

Together with Jo Spence, Terry collaborated on many projects from the early 1970s onwards, including The Crisis Project, and they edited the collections Photography/Politics 1 & 2, which produced groundbreaking, political commentary on photographic practices.  He also assisted on many of Jo Spence's projects.

Cover of Photography/Politics:One, 1979

Together with Jo Spence, Terry founded the Photography Workshop Ltd in 1974, a grassroots organisation tasked, in Terry's words, 'with researching marginalised or hidden histories and traditions of social radicalism'. The Half Moon Gallery later merged with Terry & Jo's Photography Workshop, eventually creating Camerawork Gallery.  

 Terry Dennett & Jo Spence, ca. 1974

Terry also supported the international Phototherapy community by making the archive accessible, presenting at conferences, giving talks to students (including at the University of Brighton, University of Roehampton, and in Finland on several occasions) and offering tutorials and access to archival resources freely.

It would have been wonderful to celebrate his 80th birthday together this weekend. Instead, those of you who knew Terry might wish to consider attending the service next Wednesday, or keep his memory alive in your hearts.

 Terry Dennett in 2001 in Eastbourne