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A collection of photography images on a black background, mounted on two wooden easels.

Photo Portrait Now: Our display at the National Portrait Gallery

Words by Cerys Pointon
Photos by Cerys Pointon


  • Student Journal
  • |
  • Commercial Photography


As a part of the Photo Portrait Now collaboration with The National Portrait Gallery, we Level 5 BA (Hons) Commercial Photography students got to take trips to the gallery and had the opportunity to submit work that could be displayed as part of the Photo Portrait Now exhibition.

We got to the gallery early and were able to look around the student exhibits, while we were the only ones allowed in there. It was so amazing to see everyone’s work displayed across the walls and in the Photo Now books. Watching everyone’s reactions to seeing their images was so much fun and this has been such a great experience for everyone – as for most, this was the first time their work had been exhibited.

We had two opportunities to go to insight talks, where people working in industry spoke about their roles and connections, and we were able to ask them questions. The first talk was with photo editor and curator Cheryl Newman and photojournalist Frankie Mills. It was more of an ‘in conversation’ style talk, with Cheryl and Frankie both discussing their positions in the industry and how to work effectively if you wanted to take a reportage route into photography. They spoke about how to have power over your own work as a photographer, as well as how to best pitch yourself and your work to photo editors.

The second talk was with photographers Serena Brown, Matilda Hill Jenkins and Jake Green. Their talk focused on relationships and connections within the industry and how to build and maintain them. This was really insightful as it gave helpful advice on how to keep the connections and friendships that you make at uni, and how you can go about collaborating with them in your future careers. I have really enjoyed hearing from a variety of people in the industry, as they have given helpful insights and a lot of great advice for the future.

We also had the chance to speak to all the guests in a one-to-one talk in the social connect studio, where we could discuss our career options and current university projects with them and get the guests’ opinions on our work and plans for the future. This was a great chance to get some tailored advice, personal to our own situations and aspirations from people who are currently working in industry.

There was also an area dedicated to the Photobook Café and Rapid Eye Darkroom, where we could view some of the analogue printing they do, as well as talking to the staff about the deals they have for students graduating and moving into the industry. It was great to see that they wanted to support not just current students but graduates too, enabling them to continue to have great working facilities after leaving uni. There was also a raffle to win some deals and fun prizes, (sadly, I didn’t win!)

One of my favourite parts of the day was the Revolv Collective’s bookmaking, back casting and forward-looking activity. We were able to learn how to make origami fold-out books and taught how to bind paper with string – all while the Revolv staff discussed with us our past studies and our plans for the industry. It was quite a nice activity to relax, have some fun and get to talk about your hopes and worries for the future in a low-pressure environment. The staff were all so welcoming and kind; they listened to us talk and offered us advice for the future and discussed the various routes we could take in our careers to get to where we want to be. We also spoke about neurodiversity in the creative industry and how to ensure you get the necessary accommodations you may need in a workplace setting.

At the end of the day, select students were brought up on stage to do a panel about their work and what it means to them and why they decided to submit it. AUB’s Loui Smith’s images from their Northerner series were selected and it was great to hear Loui talk about their work and represent our university!

Overall, it was a great day and the whole project has been an amazing experience for us to take part in and to get our work displayed in the National Portrait Gallery is such an achievement!

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