The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

Press Release: Large Photographs of London 2012 Hopefuls to be shown in open-air city centres

UK tour for National Portrait Gallery/BT Road 2012 Exhibition

Cardiff, adjacent to Wales Millennium Centre at Cardiff Bay: From 30 March until 27 May 2012
Edinburgh, Mound Precinct:
From1 June until 8 July 2012 
Birmingham, Centenary Way:
From13 July until 9 September 2012 

Admission Free  

Made possible by BT

Over 30 stunning printed panels showing newly-commissioned photographic portraits of top athletes and key figures involved in the staging of London 2012 can be seen outdoors twenty- four hours a day in British cities throughout this Spring and Summer.

Highlights of the largest photographic commission ever undertaken by the National Portrait Gallery, London, made possible by London 2012 sponsor BT, will include large-scale portraits of Jessica Ennis, Victoria Pendleton, Tom Daley, David Weir, Seb Coe and Danny Boyle. 

The free outdoor exhibition will go on show at the heart of three of Britain’s busiest cities opening in Cardiff on 30 March 2012 before touring to Edinburgh and Birmingham.

All three venues and their nations or regions have connections with the sitters and photographers on show. Scotland is represented by Olympic rower Katherine Grainger and photographer Finlay MacKay; Welsh sitters on display include Paralympians Nathan Stephens and Paralympic swimming coach Billy Pye with his protégé Eleanor Simmonds, who was born in the Midlands, which are further represented by Black Country-born photographer Brian Griffin, West Bromwich-born Olympic gold medallist and London 2012 Ambassador Denise Lewis, and Olympic triple-jumper Phillips Idowu who lives and trains in Birmingham.

Brian Griffin’s portraits include architect Zaha Hadid and the team responsible for the design and building of the Olympic Park’s Aquatics Centre and London 2012 Ambassadors Denise Lewis and Jonathan Edwards.

Photographer Bettina von Zwehl’s work for the tour includes Olympic diver Tom Daley, heptathlete Jessica Ennis and Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton.

Sitters for photographer Emma Hardy include LOCOG’s chair Seb Coe, artistic director Danny Boyle and his team, Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison and world renowned author and former Children’s Laureate Michael Morpurgo.

Among the portraits by Finlay MacKay are Olympic gymnast Louis Smith, wheelchair racer David Weir, top triathlete brothers Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee and Paralympic wheelchair rugby players Mandip Sehmi and Andy Barrow.   

The photographs were first seen at the National Portrait Gallery in exhibitions held there over the previous two summers, Road to 2012: Setting Out (2010) and Road to 2012: Changing Pace (2011). The touring exhibition will include exciting unseen portraits by new photographers currently working on the final commissions. These names will be announced when the exhibition opens in Cardiff Bay in March.   

Made possible by the support of BT, the National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 project represents an insight into contemporary approaches to photographic portraiture in the UK. The Gallery invited seven British-based photographers to contribute to the project. They were asked to work on location, in places that were relevant to the sitter’s role in the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Launched in 2009 the project presents high-profile leaders and those less well-known who are working and training behind the scenes across the UK. It introduces the visionary figures who conceived London’s bid to host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the people responsible for designing and delivering the Olympic Park and the men and women with the enormous challenge of staging London 2012. The portraits feature the athletes at the heart of the event - World Champions, Olympians and Paralympians as well as those aspiring to be selected for Team GB for the first time.

In the first of the project’s three annual exhibitions at the National Portrait Gallery in 2010, photographers Brian Griffin and Bettina von Zwehl mapped the early stages of the journey. Griffin features the visionaries behind the winning bid and the individuals responsible for designing and building the Olympic Park and venues. He is internationally renowned for his groundbreaking portraits of management and workers. Von Zwehl focuses on elite athletes at different career stages. She uses a traditional nineteenth-century studio method for conceptually led portraiture, working on 10”x8” film with a large plate camera.

Emma Hardy and Finlay MacKay created the second series, Road to 2012: Changing Pace in 2010-11. Hardy photographed those involved in the staging of London 2012. She shows them out of the office in places where they might find inspiration. She strips back photography to the essentials: light, the film in her camera and her subject. The resulting intimacy is a hallmark of her work. MacKay captured athletes while training and the people who support them to tell a story of the relationships and the work behind competition performance. He constructs these epic scenarios by digitally stitching together multiple files. This use of post-production techniques is central to his visual thinking.

Listen to the photographers talk about their careers and their work for the Road to 2012 project

Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘This tour to the heart of three major British cities means that these extraordinary images - highlights of the National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 project - of inspirational people involved in London 2012 can be enjoyed for free by hundreds of thousands of people.’

Suzi Williams, Director BT Group Marketing and Brand, says: ‘The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it is important for the cultural legacy of the Games that the people at the heart of the event are celebrated and recorded for the nation. Taking the Road to 2012 portraits on tour will ensure that the inspirational power of the Games can be shared with even more people. As a Premier Partner of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, we are proud to be helping to make this happen.’

Ruth Mackenzie, Director, Cultural Olympiad, says: ‘It is great that both local people and visitors to Cardiff, Edinburgh and Birmingham will have the opportunity to see these amazing portraits and discover the stories of the extraordinary people connected to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Road to 2012 touring exhibition is made possible by Cultural Olympiad Premier Partner BT. As part of the London 2012 Festival it is among more than ten million free opportunities to take part in celebrations this summer right across the UK.’

The National Portrait Gallery has also commissioned video interviews with the photographers about their photographic practice and involvement in the project, as well as interviews with the sitters. These feature some of the sitters and behind the-scenes photographs of the shoots that reveal the stories. The website will carry the images, biographies and interviews with sitters and photographers.



Cardiff, adjacent to Wales Millennium Centre at Cardiff Bay: From 30 March until 27 May 2012 
Edinburgh, Mound Precinct:
From1 June until 8 July 2012
Birmingham, Centenary Way:
From13 July until 9 September 2012

Admission Free

For further press information please contact: Neil Evans, Press Office, National Portrait Gallery, London Tel: 020 7312 2452 Email: [email protected]

To download press images, please visit the press website:

For press information on BT London 2012 Projects please contact: Digby Halsby, Flint Public RelationsTel: 020 3463 2082 Email: [email protected]

For BT press information please contact the BT Group Newsroom on its 24-hour number: 020 7356 5369. From outside the UK dial + 44 20 7356 5369. All news releases can be accessed at our web site:

For London 2012 Cultural Olympiad information please contact Paul Woodmansey in the London 2012

National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, WC2H 0HE opening hours: Saturday-Wednesday: 10am – 6pm (Gallery closure commences at 5.50pm) Late Opening: Thursday, Fridays:10am - 9pm (Gallery closure commences at 8.50pm) Recorded information: 020 7312 2463 General information: 020 7306 0055 Website:

About BT
BT is one of the world’s leading providers of communications solutions and services, operating in more than 170 countries. Its principal activities include the provision of networked IT services globally; local, national and international telecommunications services to our customers for use at home, at work and on the move; broadband and internet products and services and converged fixed/mobile products and services. BT consists principally of four lines of business: BT Global Services, Openreach, BT Retail and BT Wholesale.

BT is proud to be the official communications services partner for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

In the year ended 31 March 2011, BT Group’s revenue was £20,076 million with profit before taxation of £1,717 million.

British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York.

For more information, visit

About the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival

The London 2012 Cultural Olympiad is the largest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic Movements. Spread over four years, it is designed to give everyone in the UK a chance to be part of London 2012 and inspire creativity across all forms of culture, especially among young people.

The culmination of the Cultural Olympiad will be the London 2012 Festival, a spectacular 12-week nationwide celebration bringing together leading artists from across the world with the very best from the UK, from Midsummers Day on 21 June and running until the final day of the Paralympic Games on 9 September 2012.The London 2012 Festival will celebrate the huge range, quality and accessibility of the UK’s world-class culture including dance, music, theatre, the visual arts, fashion, film and digital innovation, giving the opportunity for people across the UK to celebrate the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Principal funders of the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival are Arts Council England, Legacy Trust UK and the Olympic Lottery Distributor. BP and BT are Premier Partners of the Cultural Olympiad and the London 2012 Festival.

For more details on the programme and to sign up for information visit


Portraits by Brian Griffin:

Soil Engineers , Denise Lewis and Jonathan Edwards,  Olympic Park Leadership Team,  Aquatics Centre Team,  Kenny Family, Ken Livingstone    

Portraits by Bettina von Zwehl

Tom Daley, Jessica Ennis, Katherine Grainger, Nathan Stephens  and  Victoria Pendleton

Portraits by Emma Hardy

Sebastian Coe, Danny Boyle, Mark Tildesley and Suttirat Larlarb, Chris Allison, Michael Morpurgo and Greg Nugent,   Stella McCartney and Chris Holmes  

Portraits by Finlay Mackay   

Alistair Brownlee and Jonathan Brownlee with Malcolm Brown; Eleanor Simmonds with Christopher (Billy) Pye; Andrew Triggs Hodge and Peter Reed; Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor; Louis Smith; David Weir; Aaron Cook with Christine Cook, Nigel Cook and Luke Cook; Mendip Sehmi and Andy Barrow; and  Phillips Idowu.

Visit From Your Armchair

Self-portrait as My Father from the series Encounter  by Silvia Rosi © Silvia Rosi

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize

An online exhibition celebrating the very best in contemporary portrait photography.

Visit now

Hold Still

Hold Still

Explore our community photography project, which presents a personal record of the UK during lockdown.

Explore the exhibition

Margaret Thatcher by Spitting Images Productions Ltd painted plastic, 1985

Sculptures in 360°

See sculptures and fascinating objects from our Collection from all angles.

View the 360s

David Hockney: Drawing from Life

Watch highlights from our special exhibition, which had to close early in March 2020 due to lockdown.

See the video