Virginia Turbett (born 17 August 1957 in rural West Sussex) is a British rock music and social reportage photographer best known for her photographs of bands, fans and street culture between the years of 1977 and 1987.
At primary school, at the age of ten, sporting a Radio 1 launch badge from Tony Blackburn, Virginia was already a dedicated and devout music fan who spent three nights in July1967 crying into her pillow because her Mum and Dad wouldn’t let her go to see the Monkees at Wembley. She had access to her elder brother’s singles collection and played Manfred Mann’s Do Wah Diddy, the Animals House of the Rising Sun and the Searchers Needles and Pins repetitively on the ‘radiogram’ but she soon started collecting more eclectic records of her own: Leonard Cohen, Santana, Love, English folk, Jefferson Airplane and the Doors.
In the summer of 1971, her life changed when she met three guys from Bristol who introduced Virginia to Hunky Dory on a cassette, in a tent on a North Cornwall cliff top. “I went home and ordered the entire back catalogue, then advance ordered Ziggy Stardust. Waiting for the albums to arrive in Baldwins music shop in Midhurst or, after Virgin started, be delivered to my very rural home was as exciting as Thursday mornings when I’d get off the school bus and go straight to the newsagent for my NME – my bible. I would skip off school, pay all my babysitting money to go and queue for tickets at venues far away to get the best seats at the front. I loved Alex Harvey, Beefheart, Lou Reed etc but Bowie was the main man of course and I saw him many times including at Hammersmith on July 3rd 1973 when he killed Ziggy.”
In 1977 Virginia was asked by a good friend to photograph the Pistols recording Pretty Vacant for Slash Magazine. “I had to go to a camera shop on Tottenham Court Rd to get them to change the film for me”. A year, and many punk gigs later, a chance meeting with a Sounds journalist on the Right To Work March led to a collaboration which lasted a few years – photographing Punk, Rock, Pop, Heavy Metal, Mods, New Romantics, skinheads, Two-Tone, Ska, Reggae and the and fans, style and fashion of the time. At the same time, Virginia was working on a left-wing paper photographing social and political stories all over the country.
In 1979 Virginia was asked by Ian Cranna, Editor of Smash Hits, to photograph features and interviews and continued working on the magazine until she gave up photography to look after her two children in 1987. Virginia contributed to many magazines of the late 70’s and 80’s including The Face, Sounds, Smash Hits, Flexipop and Record Mirror creating images of world-famous artists and musicians including the Pistols, Clash, Blondie, Iggy, Andy Warhol, Frank Zappa and Nick Cave.
Virginia now works from her home in South Devon selling her extensive and unique archive and contributing to publications, films and TV, exhibitions and record covers all over the world.