Book of the Week: Portrait of Britain
This timely showcase of the British people accompanies a nationwide exhibition launching in September…
In these confused, pre-no deal Brexit times, the question of Britain’s national identity has never been less clear. Showcasing the best photographic portraits taken by people throughout the country, Portrait of Britain is an annual photography exhibition organised by the British Journal of Photography (in association with JCDecaux UK) which takes place across the country each September.
As a snapshot of the British people – who they are, and how they present themselves both to their neighbours and the world at large – the project has perhaps never been more timely. Now in its third year, the exhibition displays the winning entries on digital billboard screens nationwide – in train stations, airports, shopping centres and on high streets – and are seen by over 10 million people.
In his introduction to the accompanying book, the novelist Will Self neatly summarises his response to the images and the photographs that will soon be on display across the country:
‘These magnificent photographs capture at once the great diversity and the inescapable identity of the British. 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?’
As Britain ‘takes back control’, it’s worth remembering that Britain belongs to each one of these people – each with their own understanding and vision of what that means. And that’s something to celebrate – fruit cakes and all.
Portrait of Britain with a foreword by Will Self is published by Hoxton Mini Press.