Issue #7876: The Portrait Issue

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Our annual portrait edition returns with Jono Rotman’s photographs of New Zealand’s most notorious biker gang; Faces Places, a collaboration between French filmmaker Agnes Varda and street artist, JR; Richard Billingham’s return home for his cinematic portrayal of Ray & Liz; and a selection from this year’s Portrait of Britain, our nationwide exhibition taking place across JCDecaux screens up and down the country.

Our journey begins with Jono Rotman’s photographs of New Zealand’s largest, most notorious biker gang, the Mongrel Mob. Though he is looking at the subculture as an outsider, Rotman eschews a traditional documentarian approach to his subject matter. In doing so, the project’s scope extends beyond the mob itself to touch upon issues related to New Zealand’s charged colonial past and self-professed biculturalism, the politics and ethics of portraiture, and the intersections of seemingly disparate human experience.

With Brexit on the horizon, Portrait of Britain has never felt so timely, putting citizens centre stage across high streets, shopping malls and major transport hubs throughout September, asking us to reflect on who we are and where we’re heading. Our editorial director and Portrait of Britain judge Simon Bainbridge presents his favourites from the 200-strong shortlist, all of which appear in a new book, published by Hoxton Mini Press.

Agnès Varda teams up with JR for an Oscar-nominated film, reflecting on the role of chance in her work as one of France’s most influential filmmakers, and journeying together across their homeland to create a portrait of its people.The result is Faces Places, an intimate film that may well be Varda’s last.

And it was almost by chance that Richard Billingham came to fame with unflinching images of his chaotic family home in the West Midlands. Now he’s returned to the scene to make a feature film – “my attempt to provide a backstory for the photographs,” he tells Tom Seymour, who visited him on set in January.

Elsewhere, in our Intelligence section, we talk to NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati, the founder of Photo Kathmandu. Plus, we meet Emily Keegin of The Fader, and Damien Demolder asks whether the claims of photographic excellence made for Huawei’s P20 Pro are rooted in truth.

In Agenda, we preview Modern Couples at the Barbican and Everything Is Connected at The Met. Todd Hido talks about searching for home in Any Answers, and a decade after the world was plunged into economic crisis, we talk to Stephen McLaren about his new book, The Crash. Plus, in Projects, we continue the issue’s portrait theme with a focus on identity and locale, from a transgender community in Peru to a lone weather watcher in Iceland.

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