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St Pancras Station display | Photo © Lewis Khan
St Pancras Station display | Photo © Lewis Khan

'Portrait of Britain' Returns to the Streets of the UK

Picture of Freire Barnes
Freire Barnes
Art & Design Editor
Updated: 31 August 2017

The largest free photography exhibition opens around the UK this week, celebrating the many faces that make up Britain.

Returning after its momentous debut last year, Portrait of Britain showcases the work of amateur and professional photographers across digital screens around the country. British Journal of Photography have partnered with JCDecaux and Nikon to bring this mega photographic portrait show into the high street, numerous rail stations, shopping centres, and even Heathrow, to reach as many people as possible.

John | © Mark Aitken

The open-call exhibition attracted over 7,000 entries, which no doubt must have made the selection of just 100 portraits that much harder. How can you distill a nation into 100 faces? Well, Portrait of Britain has risen to the challenge with a wonderfully diverse array of characters portrayed through various photographic styles and approaches.

‘Collectively, the portraits celebrate the unique heritage and diversity of modern Britain, as much as its thriving photography culture,’ said Simon Bainbridge, Editorial Director of British Journal of Photography. ‘Yet, as much as our tribal allegiances are on show in many of the photographs, each image reminds us that above all, we are a nation of individuals.’

Corrine…One week after Grenfell | © Jenny Lewis

From famous artists like Tracey Emin and songwriter and producer Skepta to an Inner Hebrides islander and her hawk and 71-year old Cornish surfer Gwyn Haslock, the portraits capture all manner of people. They are ordinary as well as extraordinary, like Corinne Jones (above), a survivor of the Grenfell tragedy.

‘I don’t think I’ve ever felt more responsibility to show the strength of a person and to create an appropriate image to reflect their story,’ said Jenny Lewis, who photographed the Londoner at the hotel where here and her family were temporarily housed just one week after the horrendous fire. ‘You can’t imagine life being more chaotic and out of control with no idea of what the future was going to hold. Amongst this was Corrine a calm, polite, pillar of strength, holding it all together for her family.’

Ruth & Marmalade, Easdale Island, Scotland | © Jon Tonks

Some of the photographs don’t just portray a specific individual, but consider contemporary culture like the ‘selfie’ phenomenon that transcends nationality, gender, age and religious beliefs.

‘The exhibition plays host to an array of stunning and versatile images, showcasing the diversity of our country. The exhibition highlights the notion of storytelling through photography and also helps to put the ordinary citizen at the forefront, championing the beauty in the every-day,’ said Jeremy Gilbert of Nikon.

Selfie | © John Russell

You’ll be able to see the 100 winning images from September 1 across London at rail hubs including Euston, King’s Cross, Liverpool Street, London Bridge, St. Pancras, Victoria and Waterloo as well as in Brighton, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield.

To whet your appetite, we’ve made a small selection of our favourites.

Tracey Emin | © Rick Pushinsky

Vivienne Rickman – Poole | © Francesca Jones

Janet | © Harry Borden

The Blacksmith | © Thomas Morgan

Roland | © Thea Geldi

Gwyn Haslock | © Sarah Lee

Mickaella – Candoco Dance Company | © Andy Lo Po

Captain Anani-Isaac, The Royal Lancers ‘Soldiery’ (British Army Portraits) | © Rory Lewis

Portrait of Britain runs across the country from September 1 to 30, 2017.

What to see more photography in the UK? Then don’t miss Burberry’s Major Photo Show Celebrating British Way of Life