Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Topfoto is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Managing Partner Flora Smith, in
front of the Punch volumes
Shaftesbury Avenue,
London 1949 by Chalmers
Butterfield, using early
Kodachrome colour
Founded in 1927, TopFoto licenses photographs and images,
with its archive being utilised in branding, marketing,
advertising and the media globally. The organisation has
been in the family of Managing Partner Flora Smith since the
1970s, and she is proud of the heritage and history behind
every image. She tells
The Parliamentary Review
about how she
plans to ensure that the TopFoto archive survives, in the highest
quality, for years to come.
Most people will have seen hundreds of TopFoto images already, although
they won’t realise it. If you have ever bought a packet of Tyrrells crisps, many
of the images used are supplied by us. A fan of
magazine? We won the
world-exclusive representation for Punch cartoon images. Ever fallen for the
quintessentially vintage look of Soap & Glory products in Boots? That’s us.
If you visited Burberry’s
Here We Are
exhibition at the Old Sessions House,
Christopher Bailey chose our Ken Russell photograph of a 1950s teddy girl to take
centre stage. If you know the inspirational exhibitions at Chartwell, curated by
Katherine Carter and her team, we supply nearly all the photographs of Winston
Churchill. Further afield, should aliens intercept the
probes crossing the
universe, they too will see our photographs, which were included as part of the
Golden Record mission in 1977. From writers to gamers, accessing our priceless
photographic archive and industry-leading service is imperative for modern
storytellers’ commercial and creative outcomes. Smart companies use TopFoto’s
iconic collections of images to reinforce their brand.
»Managing Partner: Flora Smith
»Founded in 1927
»Located in Edenbridge, Kent
»Services: Licensing and supply
of historical and contemporary
images worldwide
»No. of employees: 9
»Act as a primary historical stills
archive for the hit TV series
Who Do You Think You Are
Highlighting best practice
The archive
My family business owns one of
the largest and most significant
photographic archives in the UK. It all
began in 1927 with influential British
freelance photographer John Topham.
He started as a policeman in the 1920s,
but soon became a photographer
and had images widely published in
Illustrated, The Daily Mirror, Picture
Post, LIFE magazine
. His pictures helped portray
some of the terrible living conditions in
the UK and twice provoked questions
in the House ofCommons.
In 1975, just as John was itching
to retire and the future of his
photography was uncertain, my
mother, Joanna Smith, sought one
to illustrate her book. We found
out we were all close neighbours in
villages in the Weald, Kent. My father,
AlanSmith, realised the potential and
over a cup of tea a deal was done. He
returned triumphant, having bought
130,000 negatives, thousands of prints,
meticulous scrapbooks and allrights.
The deal launched our family on a
mission to collect and protect. They
bought and rescued what became the
expanded heart of the archive, original
content from some of the most
significant 20th-century British press
agencies to grace Fleet Street between
1905 and 1969. This visual history of
Britain and elsewhere was acquired
during the 1970s and 1980s together
with 19th-century engravings and glass
plate negatives dating from the early
We own uniquely significant
photographer collections such as 3,000
negatives by filmmaker Ken Russell
during the 1950s and the archive
of key
Picture Post
photographer George Douglas from
the 1940s and 1950s. If you visited the
National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition on
Audrey Hepburn you will have admired
George’s portrait of her, supplied by us
and printed by Robin Bell.
High winds and stinging
rain welcome arrivals
from the West Indies at
Southampton docks on
24 October 1961
14-year-old Jean Rayner
in the exploratory stage
of Teddyism, by Ken
We own
such as 3,000
negatives by
filmmaker Ken
Our earliest win was providing a large number of photos of Eva Peron
to a team taking a big gamble on a musical about her life. Our images
were used on set, with a royalty per flash agreed for their anticipated
“2week run max” back in 1978.
thus funded the first big
expansion of our business.
Global relevance
As a digital business, we work
globally with publishers, newspapers,
magazines, TV companies and museums
to license images for book covers,
films, exhibitions, articles and online
storytelling. That is the core business,
but at a time when the public still have
a living connection with the strongest
decades in our collections, the 1920s to
the 1960s, the rapid increase in public
engagement has taken us by surprise
and presents an opportunity. There
is rising activity around ancestry and
identity. We hold photographs of people
and places, stored in a way that is readily
accessible at pace, driven by obsession
with quality and custodianship, an
obsession shared by all our staff. This
allows us to feed a media wanting to
keep up with public appetite and interest
while keeping content fresh over time.
Of course, it is powerful to have a
unique portrait of Audrey Hepburn
and to be the only source for John
Hedgecoe’s 1966 photograph of Her
Majesty for the postage stamp, a
photograph that is practically a leading
brand in its own right, but the greatest
thrill for me is the willing engagement
of the public, responding to authentic
pictures telling authentic stories. A
Liverpool newspaper, for example,
published our pictures from a Bootle
slum, taken to illustrate the founding of
the NHS. The girl shown is now elderly
and her daughter sent in memories,
names and facts, which acts as precious
enrichment and a resource for future
generations. Part of the magic is
that you never know the future of an
image. After all, when Ken Russell was
a photographer in the early 1950s, few
had heard of him, much less would have
preserved his archive. Yet at TopFoto,
you can trace the developing eye of the
future film legend behind
Women in
Savage Messiah
From celebrities to unnamed families,
the strengths of the archive work
internationally through a global
network of key agency contracts built
up over 30 years. We represent great
US and European archives, such as
Alinari, Granger, Roger Viollet and
Ullstein, and we distribute our images
through them and others worldwide,
the flow taking the content up to the
present day.
Cutting through the noise
There is a lot of noise in the picture
business. It’s no secret that a few
massive platforms dominate, and
when customers are short of time
and resources, it can be hard to
communicate the tremendous
added value they get from working
with us. As a private enterprise
with the intrinsic value of a great
museum, I believe our future involves
entrepreneurial partnerships with
academic and heritage bodies. What
if, as a country, we transformed
180 years of priceless hard copy
photography to dynamic files, visible
to all? When it comes to the UK’s
photographic treasures, the heritage
value is as much in the viewable image
as in the physical photograph. Quality
is the key and we never lose sight
of this. We focus on the customer,
modernising to stay competitive,
allowing our love of history and the
universal language of photographs to
flow outwards, bringing interesting
collaborations in on the tide.
I believe our
future involves
with academic
and heritage
We are the sole official
source for John Hedgecoe’s
seminal photograph of Her
Majesty the Queen. Taken
in 1966 it has global cachet
and recognition as the most
reproduced image ever,
because it is used on the
postage stamp.
The Church of God, Pine
Mountain, Kentucky,
USA in 1948

This article was sponsored by Topfoto. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.