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

Road to 2012 Changing Pace

News Release

Wednesday 20 April 2011


  • Road to 2012: Changing Pace at the National Portrait Gallery from 25 July to 25 September 2011 
  • In partnership with BT, Premier Partner of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad 

Striking new photographs of Taekwondo world number one Aaron Cook doing a flying side-kick outside his Manchester home; champion swimmer Eleanor Simmonds about to start a training session and former champion, now Director of Paralympic Integration, Chris Holmes relaxing in the water,were revealed today.

The portraits were taken by Finlay MacKay and Emma Hardy, announced today as the latest photographers to be commissioned for the National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 Project as part of the Cultural Olympiad.  Their work will be displayed at the National Portrait Gallery from 25 July in Road to 2012: Changing Pace, the second exhibition in a three-year cycle funded by BT, that documents Britain’s medal hopefuls and key figures behind the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

In Road to 2012: Changing Pace, the portraits will show top athletes in dramatic sporting poses alongside the people who have mentored them as well as those involved in the staging of London 2012 many of whom are shown out of the office in reflective moments.

Finlay Mackay photographs athletes with the trainers, coaches or family members whom they nominated as being pivotal to their sporting success. Eleanor Simmonds (b1994), 2008 Paralympic double gold medallist, is shown with her trainer Billy Pye, on the starting block at the Wales National Pool in Swansea. Aaron Cook (b1991) is exhilaratingly captured demonstrating his signature flying side kick on the drive at home with his family.

Emma Hardy’s portraits show the people responsible for staging the Olympic and Paralympic Games in pursuits which in some cases reflect their former sports careers. Chris Holmes (b1971), the blind director of Paralympic Integration and one of Britain’s most successful Paralympic swimmers, is photographed taking time out from the day job in the water.

Anne Braybon, Commissions Manager, National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 Project, says: ‘The excitement of this project continues with these two new commissions. MacKay’s creatively conceived and highly crafted scenarios, depicting top athletes with their mentors, create a compelling contrast to Hardy’s naturally lit and extraordinarily confident images which show an intense connection with her sitters.’

Finlay MacKay’s work for international advertising clients and leading publications singles him out as a leading talent of his generation. Born in Scotland, he moved to London after graduating from Glasgow School of Art and worked as an assistant, spending three formative years with award-winning photographer Elaine Constantine. For his first commercial client in 2002 MacKay won three bronze lions at the Cannes advertising festival with a dynamic series of fashion shots. His portfolio is broad and also includes sport, arts, and portraiture as well as his signature and complex advertising productions that draw on the language and energy of graphic novels.

Photographer Emma Hardy is a regular contributor to leading international magazines including the Telegraph Magazine, Vanity Fair, Time, Vogue, W Magazine and the New York Times. Exceptional Youth, an earlier commission by the National Portrait Gallery, was displayed in 2006. Hardy strips back the process of photographic portraiture to the essentials: light, film in her camera, and her subject. This exacting approach requires a reciprocal trust between her and the sitter. The ensuing intimacy is a hallmark of her work.

Thanks to funding from BT, Road to 2012: Changing Pace willcontinue the narrative of last year’s exhibition Road to 2012: Setting Out. The three-year project will create up to 100 newly commissioned photographic portraits celebrating the people who will collectively make the London 2012 Games happen. Each annual phase will be displayed free to the public at the Gallery. The final display in summer 2012 will include new portraits plus highlights of all the commissioned work.

To coincide with the National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 Project, BT launched a portrait competition Everyday People on the Road to 2012 looking for the pictures and stories of the everyday people who are making a difference to the London 2012 Games. In each of the three years of the exhibition, the competition asks people to nominate someone who is contributing behind the scenes, without wide public recognition, to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. This year’s winner is Ian Morrissey, an aquatic biologist, who won for his work in the wetlands area of the Olympic Park. He will have his portrait taken by Emma Hardy and this will be displayed at the Gallery as part of the exhibition opening in July. Last year’s winner was Ray Haggan, who won for his commitment to nurturing swimming in the UK. 

Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘This important project, made possible by BT, is central to the National Portrait Gallery’s programmes linked to 2012. Through these new portraits, we tell the wonderful stories of some of the exceptional people working towards the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Gallery and BT very much hope that the project will inspire visitors, whether through the website or in the Gallery itself.’

Suzi Williams, Director of Group Marketing and Brand, BT, 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. The Road to 2012 portraits will help ensure that the inspirational power of the Games can be shared with the nation for years to come. 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 people can see these amazing portraits at the National Portrait Gallery and also at, where they can also see behind-the-scenes films and photography and contribute their own inspirational photos. This interactive project is made possible by Cultural Olympiad Premier Partner BT, who through this initiative are helping us tell the amazing stories of the extraordinary people connected to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.’

The National Portrait Gallery has also commissioned video interviews with Finlay MacKay and Emma Hardy about their photographic practice and involvement in the project, as well as interviews with Aaron Cook and his family and Ellie Simmonds and her trainer Billie Pye. These feature on the some of the sitters and behind-the-scenes photographs of the shoots which reveal the stories. The website  will carry the images, biographies and interviews of sitters and photographers.     

Road to 2012: Changing Pace

From 25 July until 25 September 2011
Studio Gallery and Ondaatje Wing Main Hall, National Portrait Gallery, London
Admission Free

Press View: Monday 25 July 2011 (am)

View Tube,
Pudding Mill Lane, Stratford, London, 27 July-2 October
An integrated participation project working with local community organisations in the five Olympic host boroughs explores local stories of inspiration, talent and team-work. The project has been documented by East-London photographer Katherine Green and an exhibition of her work will be on display at the View Tube café and arts space in East London. The local groups highlighted in the exhibition are Repton Boxing Club in Hackney, Docklands Sailing Group, Young’s Table Tennis Group in Greenwich and a wheelchair athletics group in Newham. During the exhibition there will also be a series of free photography workshops at the View Tube on weekends led by Road to 2012 photographers including Brian Griffin and Katherine Green.

For further press information please contact: Neil Evans, Press Office, National Portrait Gallery. Tel: 020 7312 2452 (not for publication), Email:  [email protected]

To download press images, please visit the press website:

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:

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 2010, BT Group’s revenue was £20,911 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.

Since the Cultural Olympiad started in 2008 11.2million people from across the UK have participated in or attended over 5,400 public performances as part of the Cultural Olympiad and programmes inspired by 2012 and funded by our principle funders and sponsors. Over 67,000 people have attended 6,800 workshops as part of Cultural Olympiad programmes.

The culmination of the Cultural Olympiad will be the London 2012 Festival, bringing leading artists from all over the world together from 21 June 2012 in this UK-wide festival – a chance for everyone to celebrate London 2012 through dance, music, theatre, the visual arts, film and digital innovation and leave a lasting legacy for the arts in this country.

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.



As the LOCOG Director of Paralympic Integration Chris Holmes ensures that the London Olympics and Paralympics have equal status at every stage of planning and delivery. London 2012 will be the most integrated event ever. Holmes lost his sight overnight aged 14 and two years later competed in the first of four Paralympic Games (1988-2000). He became one of Britain’s most successful Paralympic swimmers, winning an unequalled record of six gold medals at one event, nine in total. A commercial lawyer, Holmes is also on the board of UK Sport. 

To come from sport and meet people from every single background and brilliant at what they do is incredible, like nothing else” Chris Holmes

18 March 2011 London


AARON COOK b.1991 with CHRISTINE COOK b.1966, NIGEL COOK b.1962, LUKE COOK b.1989
In 2010 Aaron Cook, seen here with his family at home in Manchester, became the first British man to be ranked world number one in taekwondo (under 80kg category). Aaron took up taekwondo aged five. He progressed to senior level in 2007 and became British champion, a title he continues to retain. To support his career the Cook family left Dorset to move closer to the GB Taekwondo Academy in Manchester. Aaron reached the semi-finals at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, narrowly missing a medal. The following year he defeated five-times World Champion and double Olympic gold medallist Stephen Lopez (USA). Luke his brother (far left), Christine, his mother and Nigel his father, each plays a fundamental part in his preparation for London 2012.

We wanted to know as parents that we had done everything we could. Taekwondo is a young Olympic sport and we had no path to follow.’ Christine Cook

6 December 2010, Manchester

Eleanor Simmonds is the youngest-ever individual Paralympic or Olympic gold medalist. Aged thirteen she won the 100m and 400m freestyle swimming events in Beijing 2008. Simmonds, who was born with achondroplasia (dwarfism) began swimming when she was five. She currently competes in multiple events, is world champion in four and world record holder in the 400 m freestyle, and 200 m individual medley. Simmonds moved to Swansea in 2007 to train with Billy Pye, a former miner and award winning head coach of the British Disability High Performance Centre.

‘She might have qualified, she might have gone, but she wouldn’t have achieved what she achieved in Beijing without Billy.’ Val Simmonds, Eleanor’s mother

1 December 2010, Wales National Pool, Swansea


Pioneer Podcasts

Listen to a series of podcasts exploring the lives of pioneering women, past and present.

Explore the podcasts

Untitled, c.1973 (Alex Chilton) by William Eggleston © Eggleston Artistic Trust

Eggleston Playlist

William Eggleston was closely associated with the alternative music scene in Memphis. Revisit our 2016 exhibition and listen to a special playlist.

Listen to the playlist

Archive interviews

Links to audio and transcripts of interviews with artists, sitters and historic recordings.

Watch, listen and read