Helen Trompeteler

Helen Trompeteler

Assistant Curator of Photographs

Job description

I am co-curator of exhibition Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon (2015). This exhibition explores the life and career of Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993) and the development of her era-defining image; it is the first British exhibition to be organised with support from the Audrey Hepburn Estate. I previously worked as assistant curator of exhibition Man Ray Portraits (2013) which featured over 150 vintage prints from international museums and private collections, and toured to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow.

My responsibilities include curating and managing displays, liaising with photographers regarding new acquisitions for the Collection, answering public enquiries, and providing study group sessions. Recent display Snowdon: A Life in View celebrated a major gift of photographs from Lord Snowdon to the Gallery in 2013. Highlight portraits on display included studies of writers such as Nell Dunn and Graham Greene, actors such as Julie Christie and Terence Stamp, and cultural figures such as newspaper editor Sir Harold Evans. This display also presented new selections from book Private View (1965), an important examination of the British art world created in collaboration with art critic John Russell and Bryan Robertson, then director of the Whitechapel Art Gallery. Previous displays include Michael Peto Photographs: Mandela to McCartney organised in collaboration with the University of Dundee, and Fred Daniels: Cinema Portraits which celebrated the pioneer of British ‘Stills’ and portrait photography, known for his collaborations with film directors including Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.


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. After being appointed 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 have also worked as a selector on exhibitions and projects with organisations including the Association of Photographers, London Independent Photography 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.

Recent Publications

Recent book contributions include the introductory essay for the exhibition catalogue Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon (2015) and an illustrated chronology of Man Ray’s life and career for the exhibition catalogue Man Ray Portraits (2013). Essays and articles include on John Deakin, Lucia Moholy, and Norman Parkinson for Photomonitor, on ‘The Changing Face of Contemporary Photography’ for The Aesthetica Art Prize (2014) 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.