Helen Trompeteler

Helen Trompeteler

Assistant Curator of Photographs

Job description

I am currently working part-time as Co-Curator on a photographic exhibition to open in Summer 2015 (to be announced) while continuing my role as Assistant Curator of Photographs.

As Assistant Curator of Photographs my many duties include liaising with photographers regarding new acquisitions for the Collection, preparing Gallery displays, answering public enquiries, and providing study group sessions. I have previously contributed research to exhibition and publication Man Ray Portraits (2013) and curated a diverse range of historical and contemporary displays. Recent display Michael Peto Photographs: Mandela to McCartney organised in collaboration with the University of Dundee, celebrated the career of Observer photojournalist Michael Peto. This display of ten photographs included Peto’s portrait of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton during the BBC recording of Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood (1963); Paul McCartney with The Beatles during the making of the Richard Lester directed film Help! (1965); and Nelson Mandela photographed in London in June 1962, shortly before his return to South Africa and long term imprisonment. Past displays include Fred Daniels: Cinema Portraits which celebrated the career of Fred Daniels, pioneer of British ‘Stills’ and portrait photography, known for his collaborations with film directors including E.A. Dupont, Herbert Wilcox and Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger; and Spotlight on Peter Rand which showcased ten portraits of key figures from the 1960s by this important Vogue photographer.


My first degree was in Greek and Roman Studies at the University of Exeter. After working at Retna, a leading picture agency, I joined the National Portrait Gallery as a Picture Librarian in 2002. Since becoming Assistant Curator of Photographs in 2009, I completed an MA in Museum Studies (by distance learning) with the University of Leicester in 2010. Within the wider photographic community, I regularly work with galleries, publishers and organizations engaging with photography. Most recently I have worked as a selector on exhibitions and projects with the Association of Photographers, London Independent Photography, Miniclick and Source Photographic Review.

Research interests

My MA dissertation research explored contemporary art collecting, specifically how audience experience and use of interpretation may justify long term collections development. My research focused on the National Portrait Gallery’s own collection and audiences, and those of the Wellcome Trust and Towner contemporary art museum. My research interests cover all aspects of the history of photography, with a special focus on early twentieth century European photography. Current research projects include on stage, theatre and society photographer Sasha (Alexander Stewart).

Recent Publications

My illustrated chronology of Man Ray’s life and career was published in exhibition catalogue Man Ray Portraits (2013) which has subsequently been reissued in Spanish, French and Russian editions. Recent writing includes features on contemporary photographers Glen Erler (2013) and Todd Hido (2014) for photography magazine Of the Afternoon, and essay ‘The Changing Face of Contemporary Photography’ for The Aesthetica Art Prize (2014) anthology. Previously published essays include on Lucia Moholy and Norman Parkinson for online magazine Photomonitor; and ‘Brian Duffy: The Man Who Shot the Sixties’, to an exhibition of the same name held at the Ballarat International Foto Biennale (2011).

To see more of Helen’s research activities, visit her academia.edu page.