Portrait of Britain, a new exhibition curated by British Journal of Photography and now visible nationwide on JCDecaux digital screens, is an unprecedented outdoor exhibition by photographers from, and examining the face of, Britain today.
The exhibition is also available in a limited-edition print sale. So, in this most public of art exhibitions, if you like something you see, you can buy a part of it for yourself.
The BJP team envisaged an exhibition by the people, of the people and for the people.
In our new portraiture issue, on shelves now, we reveal the selected images which, for the month of September, will be seen up and down the country.
“The exhibition is about celebrating the diversity and the unique heritage of Britain and hopefully by doing so adding some nuance to the very divisive debate following Brexit,” BJP‘s editorial director Simon Bainbridge tells TIME.
“The portraits say we aren’t easily categorized by class or race or age or region,” says Bainbridge. “Once you are confronted with a person, you have to engage with them as an individual and not as stereotype or a grouping. That’s something photography does very easily, it disrupts your prejudice or your usual thoughts about people outside your own bubble.”
We’ve now launched a limited edition, museum quality print sale for almost all of the Portrait of Britain images. Many of the photographs are available to buy, priced from £75 for an A4 print and £120 for a limited edition A3 print.
Amongst the selected portraits was Shara Henderson’s photographer of Frank: “I walked past Frank’s car dealership everyday for three years,” Henderson says. “Each time I passed, I would say hi and stop for a brief chat, catching up on the weather and local neighbourhood gossip. I captured his portrait on a large format film camera, and he was featured as part of a larger portrait project I was working on at the time. Frank is a true gentleman, and to me, a portrait of Britain.”
Also selected was Emanuele Giovagnoli’s portrait of the age-old industries of East London: “Mr Bloomfield, fishmonger and photographer, is surrounded by the photographs of London Old Billingsgate Fish Market that he took over three decades,” Giovagnoli says.
Jamie McGregor Smith was selected for his photograph of a rather more contemporary industry to have risen on the streets of East London: “Photographed in his studio in Bethnal Green, London, Rob Ryan is famous for his intricate and romantic illustrations.
“With the sun high in the sky, the skylights created a beautiful spot light on the artist and his work, separating him form the rest of the studio,” McGregor Smith says. “Capturing your subject whilst their attention is off camera, allows the viewers attention to examine the whole context of the space, and better appreciate the relationship with their working environment.”
Zoe Ranford is shown on JCDecaux screens for her monochrome image of a fencer at rest: “Rushing sweaty athletes into isolated rooms has become something of a past time for me over the last year. It’s all about the pose. It’s all about that unguarded moment when the subject relaxes; the portrait becomes natural and the photograph becomes real,” she says.
“By taking the players out of context I create an environment free of distractions and preconceptions. I wait to press the shutter at the moment the sitter appears unaware of the camera. The portraits are taken before, during and after performances, and aim to show those reflective moments. Their expressions and body language articulate their concerns and meditations over upcoming and past matches.”
Finally, Christoph Seder was selected for his powerful image of a British woman dealing with the onset of alopecia: “The image shows Emily who works as a nurse in intensive care in Swindon. The image is part of the series Unfading, which features women affected by alopecia, a hair loss disease which is thought to be related to the immune system, but the exact cause of which is unknown, as is any promising cure,” he says.
“Affecting 1.7% of the UK’s population and causing complete or partial hair loss, alopecia is not a life-threatening condition. However, for most people it means a severe psychological shock and threat to their sense of identity. Losing one’s hair often seems to lose one’s identity. Identity, however, does not disappear but transforms itself and changes its dress.
“Accepting hair loss often means going through a phase similar to a grieving process that can be very different from individual to individual. Gwennan Thomas, one of the participants of the project and advocate of the charity Alopecia UK in Wales, says that ‘hairstyles, as well as eyebrows and eyelashes, which can be taken for granted, frame one’s facial features. Losing them can make a women feel vulnerable, naked and often less feminine and powerless against contending with the latest hairstyle trends or fashion statements. However, for many, an inner strength is revealed which is both astounding and beautiful’.
Emily first faced hair loss not long before the photograph was taken and said that her work in intensive care helps her accept the condition and put it into context.”
Each photographer will directly receive a percentage of each print purchased. Click the images to buy. More information is available here.