Now in its fourth year, it is the largest competition and exhibition of contemporary portrait photography ever held. And it has just announced the shortlist and 100 winners for 2019.
Organised by the British Journal of Photography, it follows an open call by the magazine earlier this year, when thousands of portraits were submitted and judges had the mammoth task of selecting 200 shortlisted images – all of which are to be printed in the Portrait of Britain Book Vol.2, published by Hoxton Mini Press, and released on 5 September.
This year, the winning images range from Max Miechowski’s portrait of a young couple salsa dancing in Burgess Park in London to Shaun Ryder glaring at the camera for his portrait by Theo McInnes. Some are chance encounters, some are staged for the camera, but all are arresting in their portrayal of the British people. Some, like Sirli Raitma’s portrait of her mother, also have a healing quality. Raitma started taking pictures of her mother to help her combat depression after moving to London widowed and suffering from epilepsy, and the portraits have helped combat this and boosted her confidence.
"With the return of Portrait of Britain, the question of national identity has never seemed so loaded," says Simon Bainbridge, editorial director of British Journal of Photography. "Facing a divided nation, Portrait of Britain aims to frame these questions of identity differently, looking at who we are as a nation of individuals, apart from the politics of division. From Brighton to Glasgow, in train stations and shopping centres, the photographs come into view like an encounter with a stranger in the street. Collectively, they question the binary narrative we are constantly fed."