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Portrait of Britain
Eva for Vitiligo seriesPhotography Brock Elbank

Portraits that reflect the changing face of Britain

Over 100 portraits will take up space around the country to celebrate how beautifully diverse we are

How do you define Britain’s ever-changing face? Apparently you can’t – and the Portrait of Britain will tell you why. Back for its second year, from 1 – 30 September the British Journal of Photography, in collaboration with JCDecaux and Nikon, will light up major public hotspots across Britain with portraits that capture the essence of the country in 2017.

Narrowed down from an entry of 8,000 entries (not surprising from an exhibition that pulled one third of the UK’s population in 2016), the exhibition will display over 100 portraits taken across the length and breadth of the country, featuring the likes of artists Anthony Gormley and Tracey Emin, Skepta, and model Leo Jonah.

At the exhibition’s core is an homage to Britain’s everyday citizens and the way their narratives reflect its widely unstable political and social landscape. Take Jenny Lewis’s portrait of Corrine Jones, a survivor of London’s Grenfell tragedy, as one example.

Lewis says: “One week after Grenfell I was asked to take a portrait of Corrine Jones one week after she survived The Grenfell tragedy. Her eldest son aged nine had woken her up when he heard screams and smelled smoke. She managed to get him and her younger son (aged seven) down the 17 stories from their flat to safety.... eight minutes later the stairwell was impassable.

I don't think I've ever felt more responsibility to show the strength of a person and to create an appropriate image to reflect their story. Corrine and I worked on this portrait on a back wall of the hotel they were temporarily housed, in a slot between police interviews and meetings with the council and other survivors. You can't imagine life being more chaotic and out of control with no idea of what the future was going to hold. Amongst this was Corrine – a calm, polite, pillar of strength, holding it all together for her family. Her husband and kids felt uncomfortable with being photographed so I photographed Corrine on her own as she felt it was important the public knew what was going on. By being in Portrait of Britain I hope it gives voice to her story again.”

The exhibition will be on display at major digital screens nationwide between 1-30 September or you can view it online here