“These magnificent photographs capture at once the great diversity and the inescapable identity of the British people,” writes Will Self, in his introduction to the Portrait of Britain 2018 book, “Gay, straight, bisexual and non-normative; male, female and non-binary; old, young and in between – how can it be that these – every one a compelling identity in its own right — are nonetheless trumped by a Britishness as heavy and irresistible as a Dundee fruit cake?”
Portrait of Britain – the biggest, most inclusive photography event in the country – is back. Now in its fourth edition, the award will again culminate in a nationwide exhibition, with the winning images displayed on JCDecaux screens in public spaces across the country. Following the success of the Portrait of Britain book, which we created for the first time last year, we will compile 200 shortlisted images into a book, to be published by Hoxton Mini Press and distributed across the globe.
Since its inception in 2016, Portrait of Britain’s profile has grown exponentially. Last year it appeared across the media, featuring in The Guardian, The Independent and even on international TV channel Sky News. It also welcomed a staggering 13,000 entries. It’s clear that this exhibition, which centres on the huge and fascinating subject of British identity, has caught the imagination of the public.
Portrait of Britain was originally conceived against the backdrop of the Brexit referendum. In its first year, we wanted to get behind the statistics and see real-life people responding to this seismic change in the country’s political landscape – some with jubilation, some with dismay, and others with indifference.
Three years on, and as Brexit draws closer, public opinion remains polarised – which is why Portrait of Britain is more crucial now than ever. We don’t want to show a nation divided; instead, we want to see the unique, eccentric, resilient British spirit that prevails in turbulent times.
Last year’s shortlisted photographs showed us a vibrant cross-section of life in Britain. We saw newborns and ninety-somethings, nuns and bikers, artists and Olympic athletes. We even saw a progressive Morris dancer. It may seem that we’ve captured it all, but we know there are more fascinating stories out there waiting to be told. Which remarkable people will you introduce us to this year? How can you surprise us?
If you have an image that captures something unique about Britain today, we want to hear from you. Future generations will look to Portrait of Britain 2019 to see the face of a nation in a time of momentous change. What do you want them to see?