A Show of Hands is an extensive photographic study of the hands of Britain by the photographer Tim Booth, who has turned images of people’s hands into an alternative form of portraiture.

Hands that have built bridges, farmed fields, conducted orchestras, dug graves, fished, rowed, modelled, acted, comforted and fed. From the graceful gesture of a ballerina, to the hammer blow of a boxer, these hands all have a story to tell. Some have become famous for their artistry, skill and dexterity, others, no less important, through strength, endeavour and toil, bear the scars of a hard and industrious life.

The project sets out to explore the concept of a different kind of portraiture. Faces trigger immediate responses from the viewer, we are all hard-wired to lock into the eyes, nose and mouth of a face, and are sub-consciously attracted or repelled by the configuration. Clouded by pre-conceptions and biological reaction, the face almost becomes a barrier to seeing the person, especially if their face is recognisable. Focusing just on the hands puts all the subjects on even ground, and forces the viewer to look beyond the expected and see, perhaps for the first time, a more approachable and everyday humanity in the sitter.

“After a while it feels like you’re looking at faces.” says Mike Lindup. Keyboard player with Level 42.

How do you approach each subject?

“I always have one or two ideas in my head as to what I would like to achieve with each subject’s hands, but invariably they change when I start to shoot. The range of movement people have with their hands is enormously diverse, and whilst I can imagine the shape I’d like to capture, more often than not my subject’s hands simply won’t fall naturally into the position I have imagined.”

“I shoot all the images in natural light wherever is convenient for the subject, and mostly in under half an hour, so I’m somewhat constrained by my self-imposed remit. The original idea I have in my head for each shot is frequently too complicated, or requires very specific conditions that naturally are never actually under my control. Because of that I more often than not have to improvise, and just go with whatever happens, whether it’s sunny, cloudy, raining, or worst of all blowing a gale.”

I try to keep my kit to a minimum, partly because I have to lug it about, but also I don’t want to turn up on someone’s doorstep with too much excess baggage and spend precious time mucking about with it. I usually restrict myself to a couple of reflectors, a much used large sheet of black velvet and my camera, lenses and tripod.

Tony Hart

Tony Hart – Illustrator

The exception to the rule.
Photographing Tony, or rather his hand-print, was probably my most enjoyable shoot of the project. We met on a summer’s day in his delightful garden in the woods in Surrey. Much to my surprise he and his wife had laid on a delicious lunch on the lawn and we sat and chatted in the sunshine while he enthused about the project. My childhood memories of Tony and Vision On had always been of Morph of course, but also his finger painting, so it seemed natural to me that instead of photographing his hands, we should make a handprint. So we spent the afternoon in his studio rolling ink on his palm and trying to get the perfect print for me to shoot. It’s a diversion from the project in one way, but as a ‘portrait’ of Tony I’m very fond of it, as I was of him. Tony Hart was a lovely man, and is much missed.

The Subjects

The ‘Hit List’ list of hands that would fit the project is almost endless, but below is an idea of the sort of trades and crafts I have either already captured, or hope to in the near future. There are of course numerous omissions, and a few ambiguities – all ideas and willing subjects will be gratefully received! The Collection on the site shows just 47 of the hands I have shot so far, the full collection will be on view in an exhibition in London in 2014, and of course in the book A Show of Hands which will be be available by the beginning of next year. I have where possible tried to find people who have been doing whatever it is they do for a long time, or are simply at the top of their game. Where possible each portrait is accompanied by a short biography of the hands, and if I can squeeze it out of them, a quote from the subject. All my subjects are British. It would be nice to have international subjects, but that’s for another day.

Actor – Jonathan Pryce
Airline Pilot – Anna Croft
Archer – Tom Drury
Artist – Howard Morgan
Astronaut – Helen Sharman
Author – Michael Morpurgo
Baker – Tom Kennedy
Ballerina – Deborah Bull
Bass Player – Laurie Lovell
Barber – Monty Park
Bomb Disposal WWII – E.C.H.Meggit
Boxer – Sir Henry Cooper
Builder – James Brent
Butcher – Nick Tett
Cartoonist – Gerald Scarfe
Cellist – Julian Lloyd Webber
Clarinettist – Emma Johnson
Clock Mender – Bob Tyrell
Coal Miner – John Matthews
Composer – Sir Michael Tippett
Conductor – Meredith Davies
Cook – Sally Clarke
Couturier – Sir Hardy Amies
Film Director – Terry Gilliam
Driver – The Stig
Drummer – Nick Mason
Dry Stone Waller – Jo Webb
Dustman – Jimmy Planson
Editor – Ian Hislop
Embalmer – Bob Bury
Event rider – Lucinda Green
Explorer – Sir Ranulph Fiennes
Faith Healer – Matthew Manning
Falconer – Sharon Bindon

Farmer – Percy Heath
Farrier – Ian Marchant
Ferryman – Charlie Baker
Fireman – Bob Marshall
Fire Starter – Roy Ashton
Fisherman – Dave Sales
Furniture Designer – John Makepeace
Gardener – Rosemary Verey
Gladiator – Jeff King
Glassblower – Peter Layton
Golfer – Peter Alliss
Grave-digger – Stan Lacey
Guitarist – Mike Rutherford
Hair Stylist – Nicky Clarke
Hand Surgeon – Tim Crook
Hand Tattooist – Ruth McGill
Harpist – Rosie Nobbs
Hedge Layer – Fred Pawley
Horn Player – Martin Hobbs
Horse Trainer – Connie Colfox
Horseback Archer – Tom Drury
Illustrator – Tony Hart
Impressionist – Alistair McGowan
Jazz Pianist – Julian Joseph
Jockey – Willie Carson
Journalist – Sue Arnold
Keyboard Player – Mike Lindup
Lay Midwife – Vanessa Brooks
Mechanic – Frank Suarez
Milliner – Freddy Fox
Milk Maid – Betty Bull
Model – Jodie Kidd
Mountaineer – Kenton Cool
Organist – John Birch

Painter – The Hon George Bruce
Palmist – Gary Markwick
Percussionist – Evelyn Glennie
Photographer – Terry O’Neill
Policeman – P.C.John Conway
Politician – Lord Carrington
Potter – Alain Caiger-Smith
Puppeteer – Marc Parrett
Reflexologist – Claire Godwin
Rower – Anna Watkins
Rugby Player – Jonny Wilkinson
Sailor – Sir Robin Knox-Johnston
Saxophonist – Courtney Pine
Sculptor – Sean Henry
Shepherd – Guy Busk
Shipwright – Hugo Burnham
Show Of Hands – Steve Knightley
Songwriter – Sir Cliff Richard
Special Forces – Colonel X
Stonemason – Vick Bore
Stuntman – Ben Wright
Surgeon – Simon Moyles
Tailor – Robert Geive
Tic Tac Man – John McCrirrick
Tinker – Theo Langton
Trumpet Player – Anne McAneney
Vicar – Helen Cunliffe
Violinist – Geoffrey Lynn
Welder – Pando Burge
Willow Sculptor – Kim Creswell
Witch – Amanda Break
Writer – Jeffrey Archer
Xylophonist – Sir Patrick Moore
Zoo Keeper – Brian Harman

The Book

The Book

The Video

The Video


The Collection


This project would not have been possible without the help and co-operation of an ever growing list of people. From the subjects themselves, to numerous friends and friends of friends, assistants, P.A’s, agents and all manner of people who’ve put me in touch with potential subjects, and come up with suggestions and advice. This acknowledgements list is by no means complete, is not in any order of importance, and I will of course add to it as time passes. If you’re on the list and would like me to link to a particular website, then please do let me know.

Jessie Smith, Ginny Holder, Jeffrey Archer, Charlie Barton, Tom Kennedy, Guy Massey, Deborah Bull CBE, Monty Park, ECH Meggit, Sir Henry Cooper OBE, Bob Tyrell, Sir Michael Tippet CBE, Meredith Davies, Jeremy Booth, Sally Clarke, Sir Hardy Amies, Peter Hope Lumley, Jimmy Planson, Bob Bury, Lucinda Green MBE, Matthew Manning, Lucy Hannah, Percy Heath, Caroline White, Charlie Baker, Bob Marshall, Clapham Fire Brigade, Dave Sales, Rosemary Very OBE, Mrs M K Booth, Stan Lacey, Mike Rutherford, John Downing, Ruth McGill, Connie Colfox, Tony Hart, Willie Carson OBE, Frank Suarez, Freddy Fox, John Birch, Howard Morgan, The Hon George Bruce, Evelyn Glennie OBE, Julian Joseph, John Conway, Lord Carrington, Alain Caiger-Smith, Claire Goodwin, Courtney Pine, Mervin Davis, Mo Farquarson, Willi Soukop, Sir Cliff Richard, Dave Cooke, Mike Hitchcock, Vick Bore, Simon Moules, Ali Pery, Robert Geive, John McCrirrick, Theo Langdon, Helen Cunliffe, Tasmin Little, Amanda Brake, Yvette Cooper, Sir Patrick Moore CBE, Brian Harman, London Zoo, Pando Burge, Kim Creswell, Sydney John Matthews, The NUM, Pip Meyer, Marek Kriwald, Jane Leah, The Glasshouse Project, Kate Sprague, Perry McCarthy, Michael Lindup, Debbie Pisani, Noushie De Rohan, Alison Atkinson, The London Philharmonic Orchestra, Carolyn Emett, Fred Paulley, Sharon Bindon, Ian Marchant, Sue Arnold, John Makepeace, Charlie Booth, Alex Bicknell, Terry Gilliam, Jonathan Booth, Caroline Booth, Helen Sharman, Jane Leah, Mark Johnson, Nigel Frazer, Sara Bricusse, Jez Bond, Touchbionics, Nick Mason, Mike Lindup, Rob Griffin, Ann Campbell, Louis De Rohan, Anna Watkins, Dr. Robert Terharne Jones, Ian Hislop, Nick Tett, Show of Hands (Steve Knightley, Phil Beer & Miranda Sykes), Hilary King, Anna Croft, Peter Alliss, Anthony Blackburn, Peter Layton, Laura McKinnel, Jochen Ott, Alistair McGowan, Alex Longmore, Jodie Kidd, Marco Pierre White, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, James Blunt, IVC, Sean Henry, James Brent, Sharon Bindon, Nikki Cooper, Paul Dare, Betty Bull, Guy Busk, Wad & Clare, Nicky Clarke, Kelly Simpkin, Cerys Jones, Danny Brennan, Tim Crook, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Terry O’Neill and many more to follow.