How to photograph the perfect portrait.

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British photographer and anthropologist Liz Hingley graduated in photography from Brighton University in 2007, and was one of those selected to show work in BJP’s Portrait of Britain last year. Run in partnership with JC Decaux, the Portrait of Britain is the biggest ever outdoor showcase of contemporary photography, and put portraits of those living in Britain on the street, on JC Decaux’s digital screens in shopping malls and at major transportation hubs – just as Britain voted on its future in the EU.
Hingley’s success was probably assured as soon as she entered – an accomplished photographer whose work nearly always focuses on people, she’s an adept and sensitive portraitist. Her solo show Under Gods: Stories from Soho Road, which showed people of various faiths living in Birmingham, has been shown around the world; in 2013 she received a Photo Philanthropy award for her series The Jones Family, an honest but penetrating look at a group of people forced to live in poverty. 
Between 2013 and 2016, Hingley was based in China working on the series Shanghai Sacred, which will be published in early 2018 by Washington University Press. Her work has also featured in world-renown titles such as Time, Le Monde, FT Weekend, Marie Claire and New Scientist. BJP caught up with Hingley to find out more about her approach to portraiture.
What makes a compelling portrait?
A picture that makes you stare, one that embeds itself in your mind and resonates with you. Taking someone’s portrait is always a disruptive and often very awkward event. Everyone has their default portrait pose. The role of the photographer is to push beyond, to find that mysterious intimate moment that only a camera can freeze. I personally enjoy the challenge and surprise that this collaborative situation between photographer and sitter brings. The most dynamic portraits emerge from moments of losing control, when together we let the shoot unravel and the camera guide us. These images portray more than the limits of a photographer’s creative mind.
When did you fall in love with portraits?
I took one of my favourite portraits while I was at the University of Brighton. It is a shot of the hands of the inspirational French humanitarian Abbe Pierre, taken just before he died. He was repeatedly voted France’s most popular man. During our brief encounter, he gripped my hand so tightly that I could only manage to lift my camera a fraction to focus. It was the first picture that I printed and hung on my wall, and the spark that kicked off my incessant desire for photographic encounters with people. An understanding that the most meaningful and powerful images generally develop from deep engagements with subjects rather than technical skill and precision has been vital to my photographic practice and drive.
What are your thoughts about the Portrait of Britain project?
The UK is living in a crucial time of social assessment and reflection, and it is vital that we build a bigger picture, and a more empathetic vision, of ourselves. It is also vital that we document this muddled time. The Portrait of Britain exhibitions are creating such a valuable archive, which will help us understand where we have come from, where we are and where we can go together.
BJP’s Portrait of Britain competition is open to all photographers – amateurs, students and professionals. We welcome everything from selfies to conceptual images, and they can be shot on film or digital in any format. All we ask, is that your portrait was shot in the UK after 1st January 2011, and depicts subjects living in the country at the time of the photograph. The competition is open until 26 June 2017. For more details and how to submit your work please visit
To see more of Liz Hingley’ s work, click here

Nawal Fatima
, Ayeman Ferdos
 and Khadam Hussain’, from the book Home Made in Smethwick © Liz Hingley, courtesy of the artist
Modern, from the series Resonance 感应 exploring youth and tradition in China © Liz Hingley, courtesy of the artist
Orthodox Easter service at the Russian Consulate, from the series Shanghai Sacred, Shanghai © Liz Hingley, courtesy of the artist
Tiger curtain, from The Jones Family series © Liz Hingley, courtesy of the artist