Friday, July 27, 2012

See Olympic Athletes at the National Portrait Gallery

Aiming High is the third exhibition of Road to 2012 photographs of the British Olympic Athletes and the gamesmakers opened last week at the National Portrait Gallery.

Olympic Athletes: rowing, equestrian and sailing by Anderson & Low
Olympic Athletes: rowing, equestrian and sailing by Anderson & Low
Men's Rowing Eight, Ann Dunham,  Alexandra Richam and Nicki Birrell
Road to 2012 has been a three-year project - with three annual exhibitions which together have displayed the 100 newly commissioned photographic portraits.  These celebrate the people who, together, will collectively make the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games happen. They range from the athletes both old and young and their trainers - plus the gamesmakers - people who build venues, people who look after athletes and the torch bearers. Each annual exhibition has been displayed free to the public at the Gallery.

Olympic Gamesmakers by Nadav Kander
Olympic Gamesmakers by Nadav Kander
Aiming High Exhibition

Portrait photography is not usually "my thing", however I've been increasingly impressed with how much more adventurous portrait photographers are when compared to some portrait painters.

What struck me about the exhibition was how very individual the styles of the photographers are - and how excellent some of the portaits are.

The nature of the website also made me think that these Olympic Games and these Olympic athletes are probably going to be the most photographed/facebooked/tweeted in Olympic History.  There's a television channel for every venue and every event!

The real strength of this Exhibition will be in whether it's an Exhibition which people will be keen to see both during and after the Games - as they take a close look at some of those people who will have "made their mark" on our lives.

In the meantime do take a look at the website which provides you with all the images in the three exhibitions.

The photographs in the Aiming High exhibition are by:
"We're trying to bring stillness into exertion....we're not interested in realism or naturalism, we're interested in truth"
  • Nadav Kander - photographed talented young athletes and the torch bearers.  I particularly liked his striking monochromatic studies which displayed their athletic build to a much greater degree than colour film.
Road to 2012: Nadev Kander and young Olympic athletes
Nadev Kander and his photographs of young Olympic athletes
  • Jillian Edelstein was asked to portray all those involved in the final preparations for the games - from the man who supplied the trees to the woman who's responsible for all the catering.  I found a lot to like in the room devoted to her work
Part of Jillian Edelstein's Road to 2012 Portfolio
Jillian Edelstein with Boris Johnson and a London news crew
The exhibition is free and is located on the ground floor of the Gallery and also on a large landing on the first floor in the older part of the gallery.  It continues until 23 September.

The Road to 2012, National Portrait Gallery - Years 1 and 2
The Road to 2012 - images from Years 1 and 2
Two previous exhibitions

It follows two earlier exhibitions. in 2010 and 2011.  Links to the work of those photographers are included in their names.
  • Road to 2012: Setting Out in 2010
the first year of the project, saw photographers Brian Griffin and Bettina von Zwehl capture athletes and inspirational figures involved at the start of the journey towards London 2012.
  • Road to 2012: Changing Pace
the second year of the project, photographic portraits were created by Emma Hardy and Finlay MacKay
A free outdoor exhibition was also displayed in
  • Cardiff on (30 March - 27 May 2012) 
  •  before travelling to the Mound in Edinburgh (1 June - 8 July 2012) 
  • and then Birmingham (13 July - 9th September 2012).
About the photographers

Jonathan Anderson and Edwin Low have been collaborating as "Anderson & Low" since 1990. The wide-ranging work includes portraiture, abstracts and nudes, and is all noted for attention to concept, form and lighting. Their work is exhibited worldwide, residing in numerous public and private collections. Their take on the concept of portraiture pushes the limits of the genre as in their project, Manga Dreams, (a hybrid between portraiture, graphics, calligraphy and cyber-culture), which was featured in the 2011 Venice Biennale. Their most recent work with athletes is Endure – An Intimate Journey with the Chinese Gymnasts, the result of an unprecedented two-year collaboration with the elite gymnasts in Beijing.

Nadav Kander holds a key position in contemporary British photography. He brings a cool keen eye, and consummate craftsmanship to an ambitious breadth of subject matter. Israeli-born Kander traces a passion for photography back to his teenage years in South Africa where he grew up. Since settling in London in 1982 he has built a multi-award winning career. Two diverse projects in 2009 augmented his international reputation; the New York Times commission to make 52 portraits of the Obama Administration, later exhibited as Obama’s People and his landscape work in China, Yangtze - The Long River, which won the prestigious Prix Pictet prize.

Born in South Africa, Edelstein worked as a press photographer before moving to London in 1985. Her first job with The Sunday Times led to portrait commissions from top international magazines including the New York Times Magazine and Vanity Fair. In Truth and Lies (2001), a powerful book and touring exhibition on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa and her new book, Here and There: An Expedition of Sorts, she weaves together portraiture, photojournalism and landscape.


  1. Are you guys having some kind of sporting event over there?... I think I heard something like that... ; )

  2. So glad you posted about this. Our daughter works for Visa and is in London for 9 weeks. And, lucky me, I'm headed over there on Monday. I'm going to add this to my list of places to see! Thanks!


COMMENTS HAVE BEEN SUSPENDED AGAIN due to very silly ignorant people who leave spam comments without realising they have no benefit for them.

Please feel free to comment on my Facebook Page as my blog posts are always posted there (but please note anonymous comments are not published and I block and report spammers to Google and on Facebook)

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.