JOHN HENSHALL - biography

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John Henshall is the CEO and Managing Director of Electronic Photo-Imaging -- the EPI-centre -- a British company which he founded in 1993 to provide independent consultancy and training in digital imaging for manufacturers and end-users. He has an unmatched breadth of experience, both technical and creative, in all branches of photography -- still and moving image; silver halide and electronic/digital.

John has effectively been involved with electronic photography for all of his working life, beginning with fifteen years as an 'electronic photographer' -- a television cameraman -- with BBC Television at its Television Centre in London.

Whilst at the BBC he was involved in the formation of the Guild of Television Cameramen, which invited him to become its Co-Vice Chairman once again in July 2008. In 2011 he was elected as the Guild's first Vice President. In 2015 he was elected the second President of the Guild of Television Cameramen.

He was the Guild's Vice Chairman once before, way back in the 1970s, during which time he gave his first lecture -- to the Royal Television Society in 1975.

In preparation for that lecture he pioneered the now ubiquitous 'lightweight television camera mounted on a long boom arm', able to sweep far and wide above the artistes, audience and action. This is chronicled on the BBC Technical Operations website by two of the people who worked with him on this first experiment. The video, recorded on 11 May 1975 in Studio TC6 at the BBC Television Centre, may be seen here.

In 1976 he left the BBC to run his own optical effects company, Telefex, which made star filters, multi-image prisms, fish-eye lens attachments and other devices which were used widely on programmes such as the BBC's Top of the Pops long before the days of digital effects. (See 40 years of content creation: Ian White considers the key developments that have helped shape forty years of broadcast television - an article from IBE - International Broadcast Engineer, 1 December 2004).

In the early 1970s he was also a visiting lecturer on the Film and Television course at West Surrey College of Art & Design, originally in Guildford, Surrey, later in Farnham. In the 1980s he was an external assessor at Salisbury College of Art.

John considers it his duty to pass on his skills and experience to the next generation and for many years has taken specially selected students as interns. There is a two-way advantage to this, for young people keep him on his toes and ask the important question "Why?". Students from Ithaca College in New York, Boston University and Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology have ensured that internships have had a rich international flavour.

When some of his Telefex equipment was rented for early music videos in the mid 1970s, he met Keith 'Keef' McMillan and this led to regular work as Director of Photography with this pioneering director and others. John was Director of Photography on hundreds of early music videos for many famous artistes including Paul McCartney, Kate Bush, Blondie, David Bowie and Elton John. You can view a selection of John's music videos here.

During that time John also made still photographs of the artistes he filmed and often these were used on record covers and elsewhere. See these on-line examples for Gordon Giltrap and Barbara Dickson among others. Further examples of his pictures of celebrities may be seen here.

From the mid 1970s until the late 1990s he was the Director of Photography of many major UK network television productions and commercials, including the popular Spitting Image and both series of the award winning revolutionary youth programme Network 7. John's revolutionary approach to lighting this programme without any conventional luminaires is covered in the article Wrecktech Lighting (8.1MB 6 page illustrated PDF download) from the US Lighting Dimensions magazine for April 1990 and also mentioned on the TV Studio History website. Among many others, he directed the first television commercials for Alan Sugar's Amstrad company.

When MTV (Music Television) came to Europe he designed and installed the lighting, for which he remained responsible for the first ten years, in three different studio bases. He recruited students straight from the colleges he had an association with and trained them to operate the lighting on a daily basis. These people are now recognised Directors of Photography in their own right.

John's film and television filmography (though incomplete) can be found on the Internet Movie Database.

In the 1970s, for another lecture, he outlined the concept of a solid-state Camera for the Twenty First Century. This project led him to look increasingly at the filmless future of photography, making him the UK's longest established digital imaging evangelist and a most experienced expert in all aspects of digital imaging, photography, film and television.

John first wrote about digital imaging in the magazine International Broadcast Engineer (IBE) in April 1984. After many occasional articles, for fourteen years -- from January 1993 until December 2006 -- he wrote the longest running column devoted to digital imaging -- the monthly John Henshall's Chip Shop in the professional photography journal The Photographer.

In August 2008, Black & White Photography magazine columnist Colin Harding described a quotation from John's very first Chip Shop article in 1993 as "prophetic words indeed". You can still read the original article here.

Lateral thinking has always appealed to John Henshall and some of his ideas have ended up being used in cheeky but amusing ways. An 'advertisement' for Latenteyes - a set of special glasses which allowed you to "see the pictures on your film - before it is developed" - was published in the issue of The Photographer magazine which appeared on 1 April 1992.

Latenteyes aroused considerable excitement in the established film photography world as it was suggested that it could set back the advent of digital imaging by ten years. Many years later, a similar idea which digitised film without using chemicals became a practical possiblity with Applied Science Fiction's Digital Dry Film Process (DDFP), later known as Digital PIC. This was acquired by Kodak -- the first company to enquire about Latenteyes over ten years earlier.

In the 1990s John founded, organised and moderated the Digital Imaging Days at the famous Seybold publishing conferences in San Francisco, New York and Boston, attracting many well-known speakers, including Gil Amelio (the co-patentee of the CCD (Charge Coupled Device) sensor which made digital cameras possible and a CEO of Apple Computer) and Dan Carp (CEO of Eastman Kodak Company). Seybold was cut short by the aftermath of 9/11 and the last Digital Imaging Day was held in Boston on 12 April 2001. The program for that event is still available here for reference, as is the program for the previous event on 28 August 2000 in San Francisco featuring the keynote by Kodak CEO Dan Carp.

An early adopter and advocate of the Internet, in addition to his own website John registered the URLs for both the Royal Photographic Society website and the British Institute of Professional Photography website He was the founding webmaster for both these sites long before the Internet was popular and also for websites for the World Council of Professional Photography and the British Photographic Association.

Whilst representing professional photographers on the British Photographic Association council, composed of the managing directors of the major photographic organisations, he tried to alert them to the advent of digital imaging. He recommended that they regard the inevitable change from film as a big opportunity, rather than the threat which many of them considered it to be.

John has been a contributor to many publications, including The Seybold Reports, British Journal of Photography, Digital Imaging Plus, Digital Photo FX, Mac User, Amateur Photographer, The Photographic Journal and Photography & Digital Media. He is co-author with Joel Lacey of the book Going Digital - Wedding and Portrait Photography (Winner of the International Book Prize Orvieto Fotografia 2004), published by RotoVision in 2003, and compiled and edited two editions of Photographic Qualifications for Professionals.

John Henshall is a speaker at conferences worldwide on the subject of digital imaging and also acts as an expert witness on all aspects of digital and conventional photography and cinematography, as well as the business practices of the imaging industry, and is often interviewed and quoted on the subjects of photography and digital imaging on tv and radio.

His first appearance demonstrating some of the 'new' features of digital imaging on television was on ITV's This Morning programme in 1994, with the very enthusiastic Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan. Just look at the amount of kit John has on the desk in this clip from that show. Today it could all be done faster and easier on a laptop -- by anyone. But way back then it was all very new and exciting...

As a consultant John is commissioned to carry out a wide variety of assignments. For example, in 2007 and 2008 he was asked by the company which provides the in-camera firmware for the majority of consumer digital cameras, FotoNation, to research and provide many examples of 'golden eye' for their software engineers to use to cure the problem in-camera. Similar to 'red eye', which spoils so many photographs when using on-camera flash, 'golden eye' is a similar phenomenon which affects mostly Asian people. Curing the problem in-camera -- before it is even seen by the photographer -- is of major importance as in years to come the largest market for digital cameras is likely to be the far east, especially China.

This project took John to China for the seventh time in two years. China -- especially the Chinese people -- holds a special fascination for him. He loves to photograph in China and around the world and his stock photography pictures are sold to guide books, newspapers, magazines and websites via the online picture library Alamy.

After he had booked a visit to the Sichuan Province of China for June 2008, news came that the area had been affected by a major earthquake on 12 May 2008. Rather than cancel the trip and waste the airfare, he decided to take relief to some of the children who had been affected. Many friends contributed to this gesture and he was surprised to find that news of his trip was picked up by local papers and the BBC, leading to a long radio interview with Jo Thoenes, an in-depth BBC website feature with pictures and an appearance on television news, together with some of his video from China.

John is often asked to speak about his career on radio and television. Here is a radio interview by BBC Radio Oxford's Malcolm Boyden on 4 March 2011.

John has received many awards and accolades during his career. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society (FRPS) in 1984, a Fellow of the British Institute of Professional Photography (FBIPP) in 1984 -- he was President of the BIPP 1991-1992 -- and a Fellow of the British Professional Photographers Associates (FBPPA) in 2005. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (FRGS) in 1969 and is currently Vice President of the Guild of Television Cameramen, of which he was made a Fellow in 1976 when he left the BBC.

On 30 June 2009 John Henshall was awarded a Master of Arts Honorary Degree by the University for the Creative Arts -- one of the leading institutions in the UK specifically focused on the creative arts, media and communication -- at its awards ceremony at Guildford Cathedral. The award was made in recognition of the profound influence John has had in the development of digital photography technologies throughout the past twenty years. Full details here.

John's vast experience ensures that he can give the expert view on all aspects of photography and digital imaging today for radio, tv and the press.

Many people have helped and influenced John Henshall throughout his life and career. He is pleased to be able to acknowledge some of his influencers here.

You can view a selection of John's music videos here

Bullet-pointed career details and photographs of John are also available.

"Black-and-white man makes good"

An article obout the career of John Henshall written by Stephen Webb and published in the February 2001 issue of Panorama magazine. Download first page and second page.

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