Impact Photos Library is no more…

Impact Photos agency and library is no more…it is a dead library, it is finished. Impact, as co-founder Philippe Achache put it so succinctly is ‘Pactin’…and is now in hundreds of cardboard boxes in a lock up garage in Queens park NW London awaiting collection by the nearly 400 contributing photographers from over the past 40 years.

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The Queens Park garages where more then half a million transparencies were sorted out…

The agency started life in the early 1980’s as a co-operative of like minded photo-journalists who got together to cover the wedding of Charles and Diana. The founders were Philippe Achache, David Reed, Alain Le Garsmeur, Julian Calder, Sally Fear and Christopher Cormack. I Joined the collective as a contributor in the mid 1980’s after my years with The Times along with many other ‘news’ photographers of the day who joined our merry band including Jeremy Nicholl, Norman Lomax and Christopher Pillitz. Dozens of others contributed on an ad hoc basis, some with just a single story, others with stock and many story ideas

We were a small outfit that worked hard to produce high end original exclusive stories. Philippe was the great hustler on the phone. He would be overheard demanding a minimum of £1000 or $1500 for a first rights deal in Europe or the States and getting 3 or 4 page guarantee deals at £700 a page was the norm rather than the exception and this was in the mid 1980’s.

Impact Photos Wincanton storage Nov 2018

Philippe Achache starts the mammoth editing task in the Wincanton storage facility…

Impact Photos Wincanton storage Nov 2018

David Reed in the roof void in the Wincanton warehouse…

It was a great time to be a photographer working the international magazine market, shooting some great stories and getting well paid.

Sadly the commissioned work started to dry up and by the mid 1990’s Impact was more a stock photo library having to compete with the likes of Corbis and Getty, a very one sided contest.

By the early 2000’s Impact had almost ceased trading and was sold to Heritage Photo Library. The investment and digital support was sadly lacking and the library was in effect closed in 2017-8. The filing cabinets containing the carefully curated library of more than half a million transparencies was put into store in a warehouse in Wincanton in Somerset, SW England, similar to the giant warehouse where the Ark of the Covenant was stored at the end of that Indiana Jones film.

Impact Photos Wincanton storage Nov 2018

Philippe and Simon Shepheard start the edit in Wincanton…

All very sad to see.

Late in the autumn of 2018 it was discovered that Heritage had issued an ultimatum to the Impact contributors, via the Impact web page that no knew existed, that all work NOT collected by mid October would go to landfill.

Philippe Achache and David Reed alerted me to the potential disaster to the archives of hundreds of photographers so I asked Pamela Moreton, Photographers co-ordinator at the National Union of Journalists-NUJ to write a tough ‘don’t even think about it’ letter which was hand delivered to three London addresses for Heritage, including their offices and their registered address the following morning. Heritage backed down but insisted that ‘we’ accept all responsibility for the library, which we refused to do. In the end after a few days of a Mexican stand-off a small team of former contributors took control and spent several days humping hundred of boxes and files down a rickety staircase in the Wincanton store and onto a 2 ton truck to get to a more secure and accessible store in Queens Park NW London.

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Looking like a still from a bad ‘B’ movie heist film…moving half a million transparencies in 100 plastic containers from Wincanton to London…

That was early November…

Then the real heavy lifting started. Every sheet of hanging transparencies had to be broken down from its ‘library’ into boxes with individual photographers names on it. More than 500,000 individual trannies, maybe more, no one actually counted, we just measured yardage and multiplied ! A mammoth task…but fortunately using social media the word leaked out that we needed help and many former contributors and some who had nothing to do with Impact Photos stepped up to the plate and knuckled down to the job in hand.

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Impact founders Christopher Cormack, Philippe Achache and David Reed start the initial edit at our lock up garages in Queens Park, NW London…

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David Reed in background and Brian Harris wearing protective gloves and wearing a T shirt, obviously early days when the temperature wasn’t just above zero…

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Homer Sykes basking in the warm autumn sunshine and Jamie Loriman who probably wasn’t even born when Impact started…check out the height of the boxes all filled with slides in the background…

The ‘new’ storage in Queens Park, a series of four garages knocked into one space, had no heating, no water supply and NO loo…toilet facilities were in a local park (no, not behind a tree ) and food was taken in a nearby cafe. You have to understand that most of us helping here are either pensioners or getting very close, some are in their 70’s, so lots of tough cold repetitive 8 hour days that played hell with all our backs !!

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Our final days at the Impact garages…Philippe Achache, Chris Joyce, Simon Shepheard, David Reed and Rick Colls putting on a last minute spurt to finish the edit before we all died of hypothermia…


Yesterday the 10th of January 2019 after more than two months of editing and sorting we finally came to the last box of hanging sheets of images…we worked a 9 hour day to finish the job and gave ourselves lots of back slaps for a job well done. Our backs had given out, our bladders were bursting and the cold had gotten into our old bones…but we had done it !

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Organised chaos..when the pile of a contributors transparencies got high enough to fall over then the slides were put in sheets with a name on….


Now we have to contact the photographers or their estates to get them to come and COLLECT their work over the next 2-3 weeks…any work NOT collected by then will sadly go to landfill as no one else can assume not just responsibility but ‘rights’ over another persons work. Already several photographers have asked us to dispose of their archive, many have left the business, some are in that great darkroom in the sky, some have no contact details-although we are trying very hard to find them and many I suspect just don’t want the hassle of scanning, captioning and keywording 30 year old material…a view I personally think is very shortsighted as I have my old material digitised and out there for sale…most months I get some respectable sales from my past archive.

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…and if the photographer had enough sheets with slides then he / she was allocated a box all to themselves…nice wine boxes from Waitrose !!!….

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Over the past few months many photographers have asked me why we are bothering to save this collection when there is nothing in it for us as individuals. I think my personal answer, as someone who got his stuff out some years back, is that we, we who have had a wonderful life out of photography and journalism just wanted to give something back…for our colleagues, many of whom we don’t know and for our business that is facing the toughest of times right now.

So, please don’t let all our efforts be in vain…come and collect your material…NOW!

The ‘Save the Impact library team’ would like to thank all the following for their wonderful help…without ALL of you this job could not have been completed…at least not this side of the second coming….

Piers Cavendish, Petteri Kokkonen, Roger Scruton, Homer Sykes, Caroline Penn, Chris Joyce, Rupert Conant, Pamela Toler, Anna Gordon, Peter Arkell, Simon Shepherd, Lionel Deramais (special Thanks for emailing), Mark Cator, Simon Grossett, Chris Cormack, Alex MacNaughton, Geraint Lewis, Ben Gibson, Zac Waters and students, Jeremy Nicholl, David Reed, Philippe Achache, Brian Harris, Jamie Loriman, Chris Moyse, Colin Marr and really extra special thanks to Rick Colls who had no involvement with Impact Photos, he being a life server at REX Features (another London agency)…and extra extra special thanks to Pamela Moreton at the NUJ for organising the tough letter that stopped all this stuff going into landfill 3 months back.

Author Brian Harris who along with every other helper here accepts NO responsibility for the Impact archive or individual photographers work. 11 January 2019

About brianharrisphotographer

I have been an editorial photographer since 1969. After working for various 'Fleet Street' press agencies and local papers in the east end of London I joined The Times of London where I worked around the world until 1985. I joined The Independent Newspaper in London in 1986 and stayed with them until 1999. I'm still working as a photographer, generating my own story ideas which I sell to the international magazine market. I also contribute generic stock images to various photo libraries. I live near Cambridge in eastern England.
This entry was posted in Photography,photo-journalism,The Independent,The Times. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Impact Photos Library is no more…

  1. Edward Lloyd says:

    Wow Brian and The Team, so well done. Magnificent achievement ! Edward Lloyd


  2. Brilliant effort Brian. Well done to all of you. I hope it will have been worth the effort.


  3. Homer Sykes says:

    Well done Impact Garage photographer, many lent a hand. Thank you Philippe and co.


  4. Pingback: Searching for Photographers: Impact Photos uncollected images - Photoarchivenews

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