Top image: photography by Slater King
In each of its last four years, the Portrait of Britain has gathered pace. Organised by the British Journal of Photography in partnership with JCDecaux, the annual competition attracts more participants with every edition, amateur and professional, resulting in ever more nuanced reflections on the face of our nation. For reasons that hardly need mentioning, 2020 feels like a particularly good excuse for some national soul-searching, and the newly unveiled winners of this year’s prize provide plenty of it.
Submissions for the competition’s fifth edition opened in March this year, when the murmurings of a global pandemic were growing louder each day. The impact of the six months that followed define many of the 200 shortlisted images and 100 winners, with portraits of health workers and life under lockdown featuring prominently throughout.
The 100 winning images will make up a nation-wide public exhibition (supposedly one of the largest exhibitions of contemporary portrait photography ever held), in which they will be broadcast over JCDecaux screens in rail stations, shopping malls, high streets and digital bus shelters.
See a selection of shortlisted images below and hear from two winners on the importance of the competition and the story behind their photograph.
“Since the end of WWII Britain has been through a sustained and accelerated period of change. Our society is barely recognisable, and in many ways, Britain is now at a crossroad. Portrait of Britain is the microscope that helps us see more clearly what kind of nation that we’ve grown into. It’s a wonderful platform to show my image, shot during lockdown – a totally new experience for our nation”
“Portrait of Britain 2020 is a chance for us to step back and understand where we are and who we are. So much of this year has been one of turmoil, anxiety and loss – but at the same time, there are so many of us working for others, making the world a better place, and living our lives from a place of generosity and courage. Portrait of Britain is like a vaccine against division and hate. It strengthens what we share”
View the full list of shortlisted photographer and winners here.