Dr Henry Oakeley

Henry is the Garden Fellow at the Royal College of Physicians in London, and was previously a consultant physician in psychological medicine at St Thomas' Hospital. He started taking pictures with a 1910 Brownie box camera 60 years ago; graduated to a Kodak Retina 1B; wore out a series of Olympus SLRs, a Bronica and a Rolleicord; and currently uses a Canon EOS 5D.

For Henry, photography has been a way of recording, be it the movement of a grass snake, speleological weekends, or pathology microscope slides and specimens at medical school. For 55 years orchids have been his horticultural and scientific passion, and he has recorded them in cultivation and in the wild around the world, from Tokyo to Peru to his dining room table. He has recorded the 6000 historic orchid paintings of the Royal Horticultural Society, the portraits on the 19th-century cartes de visite of the Geological Society of London, nearly 2000 herbarium sheets of tropical shrubs for Kew Gardens, and a further 6000 sheets from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society's 19th-century medicinal plant herbarium.

His photographs take him around the globe lecturing; they are the building blocks of his books on the orchids of South America and Asia, and countless articles in journals. He has also restored his grandfather's photos from the Boer War and published them as a book. During the last seven years he has been photographing the plants in the Medicinal Garden of the Royal College of Physicians to make a permanent record of them. His favourite photo is of a tiny frog sitting inside an orchid flower, waiting to eat visiting slugs; every photo has a story, and this unusual symbiosis of frog and orchid is the one that delights him most.