Brett Rogers OBE to step down as director of The Photographers’ Gallery

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Brett Rogers, Director of The Photographers’ Gallery © Suki Dhanda.

Appointed in 2006, Rogers has overseen major developments at TPG, cementing the London gallery as the UK’s foremost photography institution

Brett Rogers OBE is leaving The Photographers’ Gallery (TPG) at the end of 2022, after 16 years as its director. Appointed to the post in 2006, Rogers has overseen major developments at the London institution, including its 2012 relocation from a two-building site in Great Newport Street to a purpose-made, five-floor converted warehouse in the heart of the West End, and the 2022 launch of the Soho Photography Quarter, a free and accessible public space in the streets round the gallery.

TPG has cemented its position as the UK’s foremost photography institution under Rogers’ tenure, staging solo exhibitions by artists such as Helen Levitt and Sunil Gupta, and monumental group shows such as The Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s – an expanded version of which is now on show at Les Rencontres d’Arles. In addition, the gallery has secured the Deutsche Borse Photography Foundation Prize as one of the most prestigious photography awards in the world.

Born in Brisbane in 1954, Rogers studied fine art at The University of Sydney and worked as exhibitions coordinator for the Australian Gallery Director’s Council. In 1980, she relocated to London to undertake an MA in European post-war art at The Courtauld Institute. Rogers worked in the arts department of the British Council between 1982-2005, and became a trustee of TPG in the 1990s. In 2006, she succeeded Paul Wombell as director of the gallery.

Soho Photography Quarter.

Rogers intends to stay active in photography but also spend more time with her family, dividing her time between the UK and Australia, where her parents still live.  “I have found a little gap within photography which I feel needs more work so I will still be contributing,” she says. “But I also want to look after my new grandchild and my elderly parents. I need to look more towards the caring side of life.”

Rogers has been a keen supporter of women photographers at TPG, championing image-makers such as Sally Mann, Noemie Goudal, Rinko Kawauchi, and Zineb Sedira. But she was keen to point out that she has supported women behind the scenes at the institution too, particularly those who take time out to have children. “I have inculcated an organisational culture that supports people who have families,” she says. “I really wanted everybody who worked at the gallery to know that I supported all their efforts to have children and come back, because when I arrived nobody had ever had a baby and returned. That’s something I am extremely pleased about. I think there have been 16 babies over my 16 years.” 

Founded in 1971 by Sue Davies – who mortgaged her own home to fund it – TPG was the first public gallery devoted to photography in the UK. Rogers says photography has evolved rapidly over the last three decades, both in terms of its position within the arts and its place in our society. In 2011, under her leadership, TPG appointed the first curator of digital & networked image in a UK photography institution. But Rogers adds that there’s still a case for a medium-specific, bricks-and-mortar gallery, and that these factors will come into play as TPG seeks its new director.

“It’s something we were constantly debating when we were considering the spec for the new director – do they need to be totally photography literate?” she says. “We came to the conclusion that it’s really good to have a wider visual arts understanding, but that we shouldn’t forget the specificity of photography because it does have its own distinctive history. There is something very unique about photographic image and the history of photography.”

A specially formed committee of trustees – led by TPG’s chair of trustees Matthew Stephenson and senior staff – is now recruiting for Rogers’ replacement, and hopes to appoint a new director by December 2022. 

For more information including a full statement from Rogers, visit thephotographersgallery.org.uk

Diane Smyth

Diane Smyth is a freelance journalist who contributes to publications such as The Guardian, The Observer, The FT Weekend Magazine, Creative Review, The Calvert Journal, Aperture, FOAM, IMA, Aesthetica and Apollo Magazine. Prior to going freelance, she wrote and edited at BJP for 15 years. She has also curated exhibitions for institutions such as The Photographers Gallery and Lianzhou Foto Festival. You can follow her on instagram @dismy