Kiss the Past Goodbye – Peter Turner

The following text by the late Peter Turner is reproduced from The New Zealand Centre for Photography web site (now closed). A slightly different version may also be found in ZoneZero Magazine. It was written by Peter Turner in 2002.

I am writing with a sense of regret. No: tears are more to the point. The magazine I edited for many years is no more. Creative Camera, lately retitled DPICT, is no longer part of the photofirmament and I weep at its passing, cut down by an autocratic, self-serving, penny pinching bunch of arseholes who have the nerve to call themselves the Arts Council of England.

The cover of the last issue of Creative Camera, December 1999

They decided to cut off funding to the magazine, even though it raised 60% of its income through sales (in statistical terms CC out-performed Covent Garden Opera). I am amazed that the Arts Council could behave so shamefully and disgusted by their callous attitude. Creative Camera may not have been perfect, but for more than 30 years it was an outlet for photographers’ thoughts and expressions. To severe it at the jugular is to make contempt and mockery of more personal endeavour than any arts council with a sordid routine of shuffling papers and snapping elastic could imagine. For ‘attitude’ one could read ‘perceptual problems’. The arts have always needed patrons – not because arts lack worth but because people are generally ill-educated in their value. They are simply not willing to pay the price to have their lives enriched except through consumables like cars and video players. Make no mistake, photography is as fine an art as any – something I realised many years ago – when I was at art school. I think art school is a place that most arts administrators would not understand.

I am furious. Angry at indifference. Angry at crass stupidity, and crying for photography being disregarded or dropped in the general mire of post-modern confusion. I feel a little like the figure painted by Jacques-Louis David in 1793 – a portrait of Jean-Paul Marat who was stabbed in his bath tub for the crime of trying to help France. It doesn’t help that the cost to resuscitate the corpse of serious photography will be huge and that people have lost their livelihoods – I mean, what is a few more souls on the scrap heap? And we all know that artists are a bunch of self-indulgent tossers who want to live in a garret. So ignore artists’ intelligence and vision, spit in their general direction and go on with mass crime of the cultural kind. I am ashamed of being English and witnessing this genocide. It was once a quite civilised place until it is was overrun by lager louts and bureaucratic baboons of the bean-counting kind. The Barbarians are at the gates.

What follows is a brief and anecdotal history of Creative Camera – a tragi-comedy to celebrate its existence and lament its passing. And I should cease to rattle sabres. Of course I wear rosy glasses, even if they are smeared with tears. Yet all the best histories have come from first hand accounts. They may not always be authentic when uttered later, but mine is based on travelling the world and meeting very committed photographers who spoke to me of how the magazine had affected them. That I was party to this process is a source of pride. Creative Camera was a large part of my life from 1969 onwards. It made my heart beat.

First let me introduce a cast of characters (you might call them eccentrics) who made the magazine possible. Top of the list must be Colin Osman, the first publisher, whom I once described as ‘having a taste for improbable ties’. Next is me. I grew up with Creative Camera and didn’t wear a tie. I was a closet hippy, an idealist who eventually learned to be a business man. Then there was Bill Jay, editor and inspirer. Bill started his own magazine Album when CC was about a year old. He phoned me, told me what he was up to, and suggested that I approach Colin Osman for a job. Curiously, Bill and I had similar backgrounds – we had gone to the same art school in Guildford, Surrey, though not at the same time, and both of us later worked for photo magazines which were trying to be better than Amateur Photographer. Perhaps there was something in the water…

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