David Wills



Turnstile was an extensive database-driven photographic website with a bold graphic identity. Turnstile was online for 12 years from 2006 to 2018 and was archived by the National Library of Australia in Canberra and was recommended by Things Magazine.

The website was designed to showcase my idiosyncratic and serial approach to photography with a focus on the granular. Turnstile featured 10,000+ images, which were presented randomly across the site. Turnstile was originally created as an element of my PhD research titled Cultural Mulch.

The Photo Play grid worked in two ways: it showed randomised images from the entire database or presented images related to a particular keyword.

Earwitness (snippets of overheard conversations) and Bystander (observations from the street not caught on camera) appeared across the site. These little micro tales added surprise and were often peculiar.

Granular: Martyn Jolly about Turnstile

Made up of over eight thousand photographs and seven hundred fragments from overheard conversations—all meshed together by nearly a thousand keywords—Turnstile is an extraordinary cultural archive. David Wills has spent the last four years trawling through our contemporary urban environment like a human drift net. He has developed a finely attuned radar for cultural objects that are so marginal, so detrital, that they barely register as artefacts at all. He taxonomizes and cross-references this ‘cultural mulch’ using an acute historical sensibility that mixes in equal parts irony with a passion for his world, and nostalgia with a love for the contemporary. The interlacing of the threads of images and information forms an on-line network vast in scale and microscopic in detail, but unified in structure.

He has not only constructed his own world, but has also produced a thoroughly compelling document of our time which depicts the early twenty-first century not so much pictorially as granularly.

The archive is a key motif of photography, from nineteenth century ethnographers, through twentieth century artists such as Gerhard Richter and Hans Peter-Feldman, to today’s sardonic flaneurs such as Martin Parr. And of course online archives such as Corbis or Flickr already allow us access to numbers of images at an astronomical scale. But only Turnstile combines the automatic logic of a search engine with the personal sensibility of a singular artist.

“Turnstile, a frankly vast (and very ‘things-y’) website devoted to picture sets, artworks and more.”

Things Magazine

A weblog about collections & discoveries.

Turnstile’s A to Z listed every keyword alphabetically offering an ordered way to navigate almost 2,000 keywords and 10,000+ images.

Built using PHP and MySQL, Turnstile’s database randomly served up content to ensure that every site visitor had their own individual experience. The custom-made content management system provided easy access to multiple data tables storing images, text snippets and keywords that connected typologies.

related projects

Cultural Mulch

Cultural Mulch

There are too many things in the cupboard

There are too many things in the cupboard