Network Photographers Online showcases the work of the agency Network Photographers during its 24 year lifespan from 1981 to 2005.

Network Photographers was an independent cooperatively-owned picture agency founded in London in January 1981. It grew out of a desire by a group of  young UK-based freelance photojournalists to work collectively in a non-competitive environment.

Their aim was to produce socially concerned work documenting the world around them and to retain control and ownership of the material.

By pooling their archives and providing each other with mutual support, they were able to find an alternative approach to the largely solitary world of freelance photography.

As the agency's reputation grew, it expanded its membership. By the mid-1990s Network represented more than 40 member and associate member photographers world-wide, with its office in London employing 20 full and part-time staff.

Whilst undertaking assignments from UK and foreign newspapers and magazines, photographers also pursued their own stories, covering many of the most important unfolding events of the time.

Agency staff supported photographers by negotiating editorial and commercial assignments, syndicating stories, and managing picture sales from a library which by then contained a million colour and black and white images.

Network established reciprocal arrangements with photo agencies around the world to distribute each other's picture stories.

The agency's photographers received frequent awards and recognition for their work including multiple World Press Photo awards, the Eugene Smith award, the Pulitzer prize, the Picture of the Year awards, the Tom Hopkinson Magazine Photographer of the Year award, the Nikon News Photographer of the Year awards and the Amnesty International media award. 


The founding members of the agency were:

Mike Abrahams, Steve Benbow, Chris Davies, Mike Goldwater, Barry Lewis, Judah Passow, Laurie Sparham and John Sturrock. 

Network established reciprocal arrangements with photo agencies in 12 countries around the world to distribute each other’s picture stories. These included Rapho in France, Grazi Neri in Italy, Transworld in Holland, Focus in Germany, Aperion in Greece, EK in Poland, and at various times JP Pictures, Contact, Black Star and Saba in The USA.

Network was run on behalf of its member photographers by a Managing Editor. The agency’s Managing Editors were:

Martin Slavin 1981–1985

Trisha Ziff  1985–1989

Steve Mayes  1989-1994

Neil Burgess  1994–2001

Samantha Thomas  2002–2005


At various times between 1981 and 2005, the following photographers were represented by the agency:

Mike Abrahams   UK   Founder Member

Michael Amendolia   Australia   Member

Katherine Arkell   UK   Associate

Steve Benbow   UK   Founder Member

Jodi Bieber   South Africa   Member

Gary Carlton   UK   Associate

Gigi Cohen   USA   Associate

Chris Davies   UK   Founder Member

Dennis Duran   UK   Associate

Jillian Edelstein   UK   Member

Fay Godwin   UK   Associate

Mike Goldwater   UK   Founder Member

Donna Ferrato   USA   Associate

Stuart Freedman   UK   Member

Ken Grant   UK   Associate

Robert Gumpert   USA   Associate

Roger Hutchings   UK   Member

Tim Hetherington   UK   Member

Fritz Hoffman   China   Associate

Nikolai Ignatiev   Russia   Member

Peter Jordan   UK   Member

Ed Kashi   USA   Associate

Witold Krassowski   Poland   Member

Joachim Ladefoged   Denmark  Associate

Justin Leighton   UK   Menber

Barry Lewis   UK   Founder Member

Harriet Logan   UK   Member

Paul Lowe   UK   Member

Neil Libbert   UK   Associate

Jenny Mathews   UK   Member

Martin Mayer   UK   Associate

Gideon Mendel   South Africa   Member

Dod Miller   UK   Member

Jose Manuel Navia   Spain   Associate

Jonathan Olley   UK   Member

Tony Olmos   UK   Associate 

Judah Passow   UK Founder Member

Christopher Pillitz   UK   Member

Jack Picone    Australia   Member

Mark Power   UK   Member

Steve Pyke   UK   Associate

Paul Reas   UK   Member

Didier Ruef   Switzerland  Associate

Michel Setboun   France  Associate

Dyanita Singh   India  Associate

Laurie Sparham   UK  Founder Member

John Sturrock   UK  Founder Member

Anthony Suau   USA  Associate

Sebastian Selgado  France Associate

Homer Sykes   UK  Member

Sion Touhig UK Associate

Patrick Ward   UK  Associate

Wowe Germany Associate


People who worked as staff at Network Photographers included: 

Andy Aitchison

Gen Arcese

Paul Bellsham

Christian Buss

Nick Curry

Stephen Davies

Dale Eru

Susan Glen

Katherine Hallett

Abby Johnston

Mike Kemp

Helen McEwen

Lee Martin

Ludivine Morel

Cat Picton-Phillips

Martin Salter

Mark Sealy

Alex Segre

Geoffrey Smith

Kate Swerdlow

Christine Taylor

Howard Trafford

Sue Trangmar

Jill Turner

Laurence Watts

Alice Wyne-Wilson

Maria Wood




 Positive Lives

Positive Lives was a project conceived between Stephen Mayes at Network and Lyndall Stein at the Terrence Higgins Trust. The work was instigated to mark the tenth anniversary of the Terrence Higgins Trust and the first decade of the Aids epidemic in Britain.

The work was published in 1993 in the book “Positive Lives, Responses to HIV - a photo documentary”, published By Cassell, ISBN 9 98034 328468, and the work was exhibited widely, opening at the Photographers Gallery, London and then at The Museum of Modern Art, Oxford.

Photographers included, Denis Doran - Responses to HIV; John Sturrock - The Estate - A Family Secret; Mike Abrahams - Prison; Mike Goldwater - The Religious Response -TheBody of Christ Has AIDS; Judah Passow - Buddies; Mark Power - Grief and Loss; Jenny Matthews - Mothers and Children; Paul Reas - Rupert - A Life Story; Barry Lewis - Gay Lives; Christopher Pillitz - Gay Men - Responses to HIV; Denis Doran - Sex - If Looks Could Kill; Steve Pyke - Another View; Paul Lowe - Consequences - Acting It Out; Gideon Mendel - The Wards.

Positive Lives as a project continued for more than ten years with Lindall Stein, Amanda Stone, Kevin Ryan, Francesca Kirby, Trevor Pearcy, Mike Abrahams and John Sturrock managing the project as members of a steering committee. New work was produced internationally covering responses to HIV and Aids in Zimbabwe, (Gideon Mendel) South Africa (Gideon Mendel), Mozambique (Jenny Matthews and Gideon Mendel)), India (Mike Abrahams and Dyanita Singh), Bangladesh (Shahidul Alam), Poland (Roger Hutchings), Spain (Jodi Bieber), Cambodia (Barry Lewis), The Philippines (Hariet Logan), Zambia (Gideon Mendel), Malawi (Gideon Mendel), Tanzania (Gideon Mendel), Rwanda (Stewart Freedman), China (Fritz Hoffman), Korea (Peter Jordan), Australia (Jack Picone) and Thailand (Jack Picone), Hong Kong (Jack Picone), Ireland (Alan O’Connor)

Touring Exhibitions opened in each of the locations where new work was shot with shows opening in major venues in the capital cities aimed at the decision makers and smaller community exhibitions that were used in an educational and awareness context by community organisations working on the ground. The work was estimated to have been seen by more that two million people world wide. Exhibitions were held at all the World Aids Day conferences including at The United Nations.

The project received generous support from the Levi Strauss Foundation and the Elton John Foundation.

The Following is printed courtesy of Stephen Mayes, Editor of the project and published in the introduction to Positive Lives




There is something different about HIV and AIDS.  If the photographers' purpose had been to explore the personal catastrophe of illness there are many medical conditions that could have been approached - but unlike any other virus the medical and emotional battles of those living with HIV are underscored by unique social conditions. What distinguishes HIV and AIDS is not the illness, but

the social and political context that has developed around it (it is hard to imagine any other medical condition that still receives more treatment in newsprint than in direct services to those affected). This work attempts to reflect some of these responses to the Human Immune Virus.

These photographs show how the whole of society is involved with HIV: its transmission, the provision of care, the support structures, the attitudes and (when the virus strikes closer to home) the emotions.  A medical condition has become a social condition, and we are all required to form a response and to accept a responsibility – whether by action, thought, or by simply trying to understand.

It is difficult to photograph illness in any meaningful way: pictures of people who are ill reveal very little beyond the physical symptoms of an invisible microbe's presence. But photography is extremely good at recording social conditions and offering interpretations of human experience.  As with illness, many of the core subjects photographed here are invisible (feelings of love, fear, courage and alienation are no more visible than the physiological processes of a virus), but the process of photography translates these intangible miasmas into recognisable form. Documentary photography has a power to communicate with an emotional immediacy that cannot be matched by words alone.  This is greater than a mere descriptive exercise, for while these pictures use actuality as the raw material, the perceptions of the photographer and of the viewer stretch far beyond what is actually seen. With imagination as the added ingredient, these pictures put the viewer face to face with realities far beyond one's first-hand experience.

"Positive Lives" was conceived as a documentary project, and the photographers were selected for their ability to communicate rather than their previous exposure to the issues photographed.  The function of documentary is to provide a record and while journalistic integrity has been maintained throughout, subjective interpretation is an integral and equal part of of such photography. Layered around this, the social climate that surrounds (and even gives shape to) the epidemic at the time of working imposes a political hue on the resulting body of work. Far from being a distraction this adds depth to the project. From the outset it has been the intention to take stock of the wider social circumstances as we enter the second decade of AIDS care work in Europe, an opportunity to acknowledge truths that have been overlooked, many of which may still be considered distasteful. For while HIV and AIDS have obsessed the media to an enormous extent, many of the realities have been sidestepped, and these realities include the political as well as the medical and the emotional.

This work, which is presented as a book and as an exhibition, has two important contexts. The first is the present interpretation that viewers will read into the project and the lives of those photographed.  Inevitably, there will be a huge diversity of responses - probably as many reactions to the work as there are to the illness itself: some will react with relief that their long-held secret feelings have been acknowledged; others will be angered by clashes of political belief; some will be shocked by confrontation with unimagined circumstances; many will be frustrated by the omission of significant realities.  It is unlikely that any single viewer will identify with (or even recognise) all the experiences recorded here, but everyone who has a heart will be moved and it is to be hoped that many will also be strengthened by new knowledge to face the turmoil that HIV will continue to wreak.

The second important context for this work will be future reference. At the time of production this book serves as a record of current experience, but in retrospect this will expand to offer a mirror reflecting a wider picture.  This will not only provide information about a particular stage in the history of an epidemic, but will also serve as a record of social values and attitudes from far beyond the confines of "planet AIDS" (as one commentator describes the beleaguered condition of those currently directly affected by HIV). By collating the skills and perspectives of several photographers working across a disparate range of subject matters and focusing on this single phenomenon, a coherent piece of social history emerges.

This project in itself is only part of a wider process of a society coming to terms with an illness and the particular issues that this illness has brought to the surface. No project dealing with these issues could hope to be comprehensive.  AIDS is a pandemic and the most obvious limitation on the scope of this project is geographic: all this work is created within the British Isles.  While this is a deliberate strategy to keep the project within manageable proportions and to keep attention concentrated on cultures and phenomena familiar to the participants, an attempt has been made to present as wide a range of responses as possible. Across these disparities and across the gaps there is a coherent thread binding this work together: the shared experience of those directly affected by HIV in an uncomprehending society.

These are all real people and real lives.  Their courage in identifying so closely with the problems that accompany HIV should not be underestimated in a culture that actively discriminates against people associated with this virus.  By agreeing to be photographed they are making a significant contribution to the understanding of an issue with which we are all involved.  These are Positive Lives.


Stephen Mayes


The NHS at 50

The NHS is photogenic - a truth demonstrated by this exhibition and the thesis behind its origins.

Recognising that photography offered a unique medium for exploring and revealing the complexity of our National Health Service and the essential humanity which lies at its heart, the NHS approached a number of major photographers  to seek their help in developing greater public understanding of their service in its 50th anniversary year.

Network Photographers responded with enthusiasm, developing a brief to show the health  service as it
is in 1998.  The areas of healthcare covered by this exhibition emerged through discussion with the NHS, and each photographer was given freedom to interpret his or her chosen topic as they wished, exploring all of its facets.

Much of the day to day care and treatment provided by the NHS is routine · though critical to those who receive it in terms of quality of life. How many of us want to live with any degree of pain or discomfort  however 'minor'? Other aspects of modern healthcare are dramatic and life saving- these are the images we see more often on our television screens. This exhibition has managed to capture both the ordinary and the dramatic in a way which shows the value of the NHS to everyone.

The NHS is the biggest organisation in Europe, providing employment for more than a million  people- and care and treatment  for over 50 million more. The NHS is everywhere, in every village, town and city in the country. Network's photographers have risen to the challenge of capturing the breadth of the NHS as well as the range of its services. From a rural GP practice in Northern Ireland to a busy maternity unit in London, from a Glasgow Accident and Emergency Department  to the rounds of a district nurse in Airedale, the seven photographic  essays contained
in this exhibition contain a truly national service.

These images will continue to illustrate the NHS well beyond its anniversary year. Each essay stands  as a unique record of the NHS at 50.