Terry Dennett

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Terry Dennett, 1938 – 2018
It is with regret that we announce the death in January of Terry Dennett, Royal Anthropological Institute Fellow (1994-2017) and past President of the Association for Historical and Fine Art Photography (2006-2011). His funeral was held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday 7 February at Islington Crematorium. Among the mourners were four members of the association.

Terry Dennett (Photograph: Courtesy Vid Ingelevics, vid@web.net).

Terry Dennett, long-term member of AHFAP, past president and sometime journal editor was born in Chigwell, Essex, in 1938 and died in Islington just a few days short of his 80th birthday. He showed a precocious interest in photography and explored nearby Epping Forest. An early influence on his later sociological preoccupations was a relative, Sir John Dennett, a social historian.

He met Jo Spence when visiting the Children’s Rights Workshop in 1973. They soon began working collaboratively. He worked with her on many community projects as part of the Photography Workshop, ‘Remodelling Photo History’, an investigation into the way photography interacts with society, and ‘The Final Project’ which dealt with her mortality in Spence’s last few years of life.

They founded the Half Moon Photography workshop in Whitechapel in 1974 and published the magazine Camerawork. They were motivated by a response to the deprivation around them and a determination to educate. They ran workshops, in which they demystified and democratised photography, especially to children in projects such as ‘Kids and Photography’. They built pinhole cameras from cardboard boxes and used milkbottles for lenses. They converted an old ambulance into a mobile darkroom, which they drove around to record the life of various travelling communities.

Terry was as much a historian as a photographer, researching, as he put it, ‘the marginalised or hidden histories of the traditions of social radicalism’. Influenced by the agit-prop photography of the 1930s, he produced many books and broadsheets published in Camerawork. He recorded the plight of the homeless in ‘Sleeping rough’ in the 1990s. He was also interested in the technical and experimental side of photography and he has left much material from his idiosyncratic researches.

He worked as staff photographer for the Royal Zoological Society at London Zoo. This was what he called his nine-to-five job while his ‘five-to-nine job’ was the care and preservation of the photographic archive of Jo Spence, with whom he lived for many years. He tirelessly, generously and selflessly promoted her work and reputation after her death in 1992 for the rest of his own life. When he couldn’t find any national UK institutions interested in her work he organised a significant exhibition in 2005 in Barcelona.

He had no family but Jo Spence’s niece has happy memories of their holiday visits to Devon, Terry always with camera in hand, of ‘silliness and laughter’ and clotted cream bought especially for the Londoners.

Terry was diagnosed with diabetes a few years ago and bravely endured partial blindness.


This obituary first appeared 2018 on the webpage of the Association of Historical and Fine Art Photography http://www.ahfap.org.uk/news/. Reproduced with permission.

To cite this article:

MAITLAND, COLIN. 2018 ‘Terry Dennett, 1938-2018’. Obituaries. Royal Anthropological Institute, February 2018. (available on-line: https://therai.org.uk/archives-and-manuscripts/obituaries/terry-dennett)


Link to relevant records by or concerning the listed person on the RAI’s bibliographic database Anthropological Index Online https://aio.therai.org.uk/aio.php?action=doquicksearch&qs_resultsmode=fullkeywords&qs_decades=all&qs_keyword=Terry%20Dennett