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Behind the lens of devoted Terry

Photographer committed himself to ensuring the work of his former partner and collaborator was not forgotten

02 February, 2018 — By Samantha Booth

Photographer Terry Dennett, who devoted his later years to the Jo Spence Memorial Archive. All photos: Richard Saltoun Gallery

WHEN his former partner and collaborator died in the early 1990s, photographer Terry Dennett was entrusted not only with her iconic work, but he also took it upon himself to make sure her talents and revolutionary attitudes were not forgotten.

He pitched photogra­pher Jo Spence’s stand-out work to museums around the country, hopeful one would display her powerful photos depicting issues of class, gender, power and even her battle with breast cancer.

After Terry passed away earlier this month aged 80, he was remembered for being devoted to making sure Jo was not forgotten.

Gallery owner Richard Saltoun, who had worked with Terry to get Jo’s work on public view, taking pride in seeing it displayed at Tate Britain, said: “He really devoted all of his time post-retirement, in the last 10 to 15 years, to the Jo Spence Memorial Archive.”

He stored an archive collection of her work at his Upper Street home, where the couple had formerly lived together, and where he stayed until six months before he left for a care home due to ill health.

A collection of Terry and Jo’s photographs

Mr Saltoun said: “He had a colossal amount of respect for Jo. They had been lovers at some point and collaborated together. He was generous, kind, intellectual, informative, just really caring and devoted to his subject and a man of information.”

He added: “He made Islington a hub of avant-garde photograph practises.”

Terry was a photographer in his own right, having worked for London Zoo, and with Jo in 1982 he launched the project Remodel­ling Photo History (The History Lesson).

Both featured as photographer and photographic subject.

Jo and Terry also founded the Photography Workshop, an independent research, publishing and resource project.

The couple separated before she remarried, but remained close friends, said Mr Saltoun.

The public can still view Terry’s work, some of which he deposited at the MayDay Rooms in Fleet Street, while The Jo Spence Memorial Archive now sits with Birkbeck College, in Bloomsbury.

Jacob Bard-Rosenberg, archivist at MayDay Rooms, said much of Terry’s work centres on creating images of “dilapidation, deprivation and wretchedness in the urban environment”.

Members of the public are welcome to attend Terry’s funeral. It will be held at Islington Crematorium, at 278 High Road, N2 9AG, on Wednesday at 11am.

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