British Journal of Photography is pleased to present Portrait of Britain, our nationwide exhibition showing across JCDecaux’s digital network of screens in railway stations, shopping centres, high streets and bus stops around the UK.
We asked you to show us the modern face of Britain. And while much has happened in the six months since that might challenge our long-held notions about our national identity, the 100 portraits chosen provide a reflection on who we really are, away from the rhetoric of politics and the discourse of division.
Envisaged as an exhibition by the people, of the people and for the people, Portrait of Britain was initiated as an open call for photographs that celebrate this country’s unique heritage and diversity.
Selected from nearly 4000 entries, the winning portraits capture young and old, reflecting not just the multiformity of British people, but also the myriad of styles and approaches to contemporary photographic portraiture.
There is formality and craft in photographs such as Phil Sharp’s profile view of musicians and producer Dave Okumu, which features on our cover.
Others are more casual, a moment observed and captured, like Celia Topping’s photograph of her son meeting his newborn brother for the first time.
There are portraits that directly refer to the many nuances of contemporary British culture, such as Annie Collinge’s picture of Emily, dressed up for a regular meetup of the Chester, Liverpool and Manchester Lolita group.
And there are photographs that seem to hark back to a different era, people and places that have changed little in recent years and decades, such as Frank, captured at his secondhand car dealership by Shara Henderson.
For the most part, Portrait of Britain is a celebration of the ordinary man or woman on the street. But there are stars among them. Some are familiar names, such as Stephen Hawking and award-winning grime artist Stormzy.
Others are leaders in their fields, such as Barbara Judge, the first female chair of the Institute of Directors, or photography legend Don McCullin. And there are unsung heroes, like Mick Ellis, who was watch manager at the London Fire Brigade on 7/7, attending the aftermath of the bus bomb at Tavistock Square.
Among the portraits are celebrations of the circle of life, such as Nicola with her newborn Jemima, from a series by Jenny Lewis titled One Day Young, and tributes to survival, including Jamie McGregor Smith’s photograph of a young woman recently given the all-clear following chemotherapy treatment.
And while we were looking for individual images that collectively reflect on the people of Britain and their sense of place and experiences, many of the selected photographs are taken from wider series that reflect on a particular place or group or community, created over months and years.
For example, two of the 100 selected portraits come from Chris O’Donovan’s series, Never Say Die, a portrait of Jaywick Sands in north Essex, which six years ago ranked as the most deprived neighbourhood in England.
Peter and Jim, two of the Forever Boys photographed by Dylan Collard, are volunteers made up of former engineers and technicians restoring a three-storey steam engine at the Kempton Railway Museum.
Simon Martin’s photograph of three girls taking part in a Miss Sittingbourne contest is taken from a wider project, Bearing Fruit, documenting the Kent town as it experiences gentrification and the possibility of large-scale development.
The result is public art on a huge scale – a nationwide exhibition that puts the country’s citizens centre stage, in high streets, shopping precincts and railway stations throughout the land. Positioned within iconic retail and transport hubs such as The Bullring, Bluewater, St Pancras and Edinburgh Waverley, the 100 selected portraits will be displayed across JCDecaux’s digital network of screens for the month of September 2016.
We’ve now launched a limited edition, museum quality print sale for Portrait of Britain images, creating an opportunity for each photographer to directly benefit from their artwork. Many of the photographs are available to buy, priced from £75 for an A4 print and £120 for a limited edition A3 print.