The National Portrait Gallery marks the Road to London 2012 with touring photographic display

By Ruth Hazard | 10 April 2012
A picture of an athlete posed in a hall with a sand pit having his picture taken by a photographer
Phillips Idowu (right) with Aston Moore photographed for the exhibition by Finlay MacKay at Birmingham High Performance Centre© Finlay MacKay National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 Project
Exhibition: National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012, various venues, until July 13 2012

With the London Olympic and Paralympic games drawing ever nearer, the National Portrait Gallery is inviting visitors to meet the many different faces behind the event at a new outdoor photographic display.

As well as the likes of top British athletes Victoria Pendleton, Jessica Ennis and Tom Daley, there are also portraits of the behind-the-scenes workers bringing the games together, such as former gold medallist Seb Coe, the Chair of the Organising Committee, and film director Danny Boyle, who is co-ordinating the opening ceremony.

A picture of  man in a black vest and jeans with crutches and a tattoo of the Olympic symbol on his upper arm
Paralympian Nathan Stephens at Barry Island, Wales by Bettina von Zwehl© Bettina von Zwehl National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 Project
The gallery invited seven British-based photographers to contribute to the project. They were asked to work in places that were relevant to the sitter's role in the Olympic and Paralympic games.

The exhibition contains highlights of the largest photographic commission ever undertaken by the National Portrait Gallery, featuring inspirational figures such as Nathan Stephens - one of the only two athletes to compete at the Paralympic Winter and Summer games.

Stephens, who lost both legs at the age of nine while playing on railway tracks, aims to be the UK’s greatest paralympian thrower. His portrait, by German photographer Bettina von Zwehl, shows him on Barry Island in Wales.

With the aim of offering an all-encompassing look at the people involved in London 2012, professional athletes are shown alongside background workers such as Jan Matthews, who is the Head of Catering, Cleaning and Waste.

A picture of a woman in a red top and jeans with hands resting on her hip with a backdrop of a field of grass and dandelion plants
Jessica Ennis at Don Valley Stadium, Sheffield by Bettina von Zwehl© Bettina von Zwehl National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 Project
The exhibition features individuals like Matthews (who is responsible for what will be the world’s largest peacetime catering operation) to draw together the many different accomplishments that make the games possible.

Also featured is former London mayor, Ken Livingstone, London 2012 Ambassadors Denise Lewis and Jonathan Edwards and Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner, Chris Allison.

Visitors can also access video interviews with photographers and sitters on their mobile phones using QR codes on the panels.
  • Road to 2012 is at Cardiff Bay, adjacent to Wales Millennium Centre, until May 27, then Edinburgh Mound Precinct, June 1 - July 8; Birmingham Centenary Way, July 13 - September 2012.
    Admission free.
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