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National Portrait Gallery Opens Now and Then Photographs by John Swannell

Previously Unseen Portraits of Susan Boyle and Tony Blair Go on Display at National Portrait Gallery

Previously unreleased portraits of singer Susan Boyle, former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and art historian and museum director Sir Roy Strong (in Elizabethan costume), will form part of a new display at the National Portrait Gallery. The display will highlight 16 portraits recently acquired for the Gallery’s Collection by acclaimed photographer John Swannell. The portraits on display range from previously unseen photographs taken in the last year, to portraits taken at the start of his career in the early 1970s. The display, Now and Then: Photographs by John Swannell, will run from 22 April until 31 December 2011 in Room 38a of the Gallery.

Tony Blair, 2009 by John Swannell. ©John Swannell / camera press

The photographs of Boyle and Blair are both unpublished images from Swannell’s photo shoots for their respective recent best-selling autobiographies. The portrait of Sir Roy Strong, art historian and former Director of the National Portrait Gallery, was a personal commission in which Strong is depicted in doublet and hose.

Known for his photographs of the Royal family, the display includes Swannell’s portrait of HRH The Princess Royal, commissioned for her 60th birthday. Spanning Swannell’s career since the 1970s, the display also includes portraits of musician Phil Lynott, co-founder and musician with Thin Lizzy, fashion icon Iman, singer George Michael, broadcaster Jeremy Paxman, actor Bill Nighy and film director Christopher Nolan. Swannell is particularly celebrated for his fashion photography, reflected in his portraits of Victoria Beckham, fashion designer Betty Jackson and actress Sienna Miller, modelling one of her sister’s designs for their jointly owned fashion label twenty8twelve.

Born in 1946, John Swannell left school at sixteen and first worked at Vogue Studios, assisting photographers such as Cecil Beaton. He worked for David Bailey from 1969 to 1973, including on Bailey’s book, Goodbye Baby and Amen (1969), before establishing his own studio. He spent the next 10 years travelling and working for magazines including Vogue, Harpers & Queen, The Sunday Times and Tatler. In 1993 Swannell was awarded a Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society. His work was first exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in the group exhibition, Twenty for Today: New Portrait Photography (1985), and a solo exhibition of his work, Twenty Years On, was staged at the Gallery in 1997. The Gallery first began to acquire Swannell’s work in 1983, and now holds over 100 of his portraits covering the years 1970 to 2010. He has published numerous books, including Fine Lines (1982), Twenty Years On (1996), I’m still standing (2002) and Nudes 1978-2006 (2006). Swannell’s work is also held in collections at the V&A, the National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, and the Royal Photographic Society.

EVENTS: John Swannell will be giving a lecture at the Royal Geographical Society on 7 June at 7pm in aid of the National Autistic Society. This is a rare opportunity to see a personal collection of his work and hear of his travels and extraordinary career. Tickets £15
For further information please visit

Lower image: Susan Boyle, 2010 by John Swannell. ©John Swannell / camera press

National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, London, WC2H 0HE. Opening hours Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday: 10am – 6pm (Gallery closure commences at 5.50pm) Late Opening: Thursday, Friday: 10am – 9pm (Gallery closure commences at 8.50pm) Nearest Underground: Leicester Square/Charing Cross Recorded information: 020 7312 2463 General information: 020 7306 0055 Website:

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