News Release: Gallery's Largest Olympic Photographic Exhibition Launches With New Portrait of Beth Tweddle and Jodie Williams

News Release

Wednesday 29 February 2012

- Road to 2012: Aiming High at the National Portrait Gallery from 19 July to 23

September 2012 (Press View 19 July 2012, 8.30-10am)

- Made possible by BT, Premier Partner of the London 2012 Festival

- Part of the London 2012 Festival

Stunning new portraits of gymnast Beth Tweddle, talented young sprinter Jodie Williams and Jan Matthews, who is responsible for the world’s largest peacetime catering operation, were released today to launch Road to 2012: Aiming High - the final and biggest exhibition in the National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 project of commissioned photographs documenting the preparations for London 2012.  

As part of a Gallery commission of 100 works, over forty new portraits by the newly commissioned photographers, who were announced today as Anderson & Low, Nadav Kander and Jillian Edelstein, will go on show at the National Portrait Gallery on 19 July.

Beth Tweddle (b.1985) is photographed by Anderson & Low with fellow gymnasts Hannah Whelan, Jenni Pinches and Rebecca Tunney at the City of Liverpool Gymnastics Club where they train. Tweddle, who became Britain’s first ever world champion in women’s gymnastics in 2006, began competing aged seven, and moved to Liverpool in 1997 to train with coach Amanda Reddin. Since 2002 she has won multiple medals at international level on the asymmetric bars, floor and team disciplines.  She has competed at two Olympic Games and is now three-times world champion.

Tweddle, current British champion Whelan (b.1992) and Pinches (b.1994) are all members of the women’s team who qualified for the London 2012 Olympic Games at the World Championships in 2011. Rebecca Tunney (b.1996) is British junior champion 2011. ‘Beth is a role model for pretty well all gymnasts in Britain,’ says Hannah Whelan. ‘She is so strong mentally and she knows how to compete. She is clearly more experienced than any of us. She has done it all.’

Photographed in London by Nadav Kander, rising track and field star Jodie Williams (b.1993) is recognised as ‘the sort of athlete every country is waiting for’ by UK athletics head coach Charles van Commenee. The 18-year-old joined her local athletics club aged thirteen, following in the footsteps of her parents, both county-level sprinters. She holds three world junior and youth titles in the 100 metres and 200 metres and is reigning world junior champion at 100 metres. Williams’ debut at senior international level was in 2011 coming fourth in the 60 metres with a personal best. She is currently studying for A levels. ‘Jodie asked how she could become an Olympic athlete after school sports day when she was seven years old,’ says Jodie’s mother, Chris. ‘Her focus and competitive drive are amazing.’

As Head of Catering, Cleaning and Waste for the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), Jan Matthews (b.1961) will serve 14 million meals over seventy-seven days. She is photographed at Smithfield Market by Jillian Edelstein. Matthews says: ‘We will deliver over 2.5 million workforce meals, on the busiest day in the village over 65,000 and over 14 million meals over the 77 days of games, its big but we are really looking forward to the challenge and what is going to be the highlight of certainly my career.’  Matthews, who works with third-party partners to deliver the London 2012 zero direct-to-landfill waste pledge, was previously responsible for supplying catering, retail and leisure facilities to the British armed forces.

The portraits by Anderson & Low, Nadav Kander and Jillian Edelstein that make up the final part of the National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 project will be seen alongside highlights of the work by previously commissioned photographers Brian Griffin, Bettina von Zwehl, Finlay McKay and Emma Hardy. Road to 2012: Aiming High will be the largest of the Road to 2012 exhibitions to be seen across the three years.   

Thanks to funding from BT, Road to 2012: Aiming High will concludethe journey to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games that started with the exhibition Road to 2012: Setting Out in 2010and continued with last summer’s Road to 2012: Changing Pace. The three-year project creates 100 newly commissioned photographic portraits celebrating the people who will collectively make the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games happen. Each annual exhibition has been displayed free to the public at the Gallery.  

Road to 2012 also tours as a free outdoor exhibition to the heart of Britain’s busiest cities. Thirty printed panels of the photographs including some from the latest commissions, will be shown in Cardiff from 30 March 2012 before touring to Edinburgh and Birmingham.

Jonathan Anderson and Edwin Low have been collaborating as "Anderson & Low" since 1990. The wide-ranging work includes portraiture, abstracts and nudes, and is all noted for attention to concept, form and lighting. Their work is exhibited worldwide, residing in numerous public and private collections, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, Museum of Fine Art, Houston, National Gallery of Australia, the National Portrait Galleries in London and Australia, and the United States Olympic Center. Their take on the concept of portraiture pushes the limits of the genre as in their project, Manga Dreams, (a hybrid between portraiture, graphics, calligraphy and cyber-culture), which was featured in the 2011 Venice Biennale. Their publications include Athletes, Gymnasts, Athlete/Warrior, Champions, Circus, Manga Dreams, Chrysalis and Family Intimacies. Their most recent work with athletes is Endure – An Intimate Journey with the Chinese Gymnasts, the result of an unprecedented two-year collaboration with the elite gymnasts in Beijing.

Anne Braybon, Commissions Manager for the National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 project, says: ‘Anderson & Low return to a formal style and naturalistic palette for Road to 2012. By carefully selecting the locations and meticulous positioning of their sitters they create timeless tableaux to depict athletes and support staff behind Olympic and Paralympic aspiration’.

Nadav Kander holds a key position in contemporary British photography. He brings a cool keen eye, and consummate craftsmanship to an ambitious breadth of subject matter. Israeli-born Kander traces a passion for photography back to his teenage years in South Africa where he grew up. Since settling in London in 1982 he has built a multi-award winning career. Two diverse projects in 2009 augmented his international reputation; the New York Times commission to make 52 portraits of the Obama Administration, later exhibited as Obama’s People and his landscape work in China, Yangtze - The Long River, which  won the prestigious Prix Pictet prize.

Anne Braybon: ‘For the Road to 2012 Nadav Kander’s compelling portraits of talented young athletes reference the iconic black and white portraits of the 1940s and 1950s such as Karsh, Brandt and Penn. Using dramatic lighting, and the interplay of highlights and dense rich shadows he focuses on the vulnerability he observed in his sitters’.

Jillian Edelstein’s work is a bravura example of photographic versatility. Relishing different ways of using the medium she has built an award-winning career in both portraiture and photojournalism. Born in South Africa, Edelstein worked as a press photographer before moving to London in 1985. Her first job with The Sunday Times led to portrait commissions from top international magazines including the New York Times Magazine and Vanity Fair. In Truth and Lies (2001), a powerful book and touring exhibition on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa and her new book, Here and There: An Expedition of Sorts, she weaves together portraiture, photojournalism and landscape.

 ‘For the Road to 2012’, says Anne Braybon, ‘Edelstein draws on her passion for film to create cinematic vignettes with her sitters. She uses intriguing locations, and carefully crafted lighting to reference the stories behind the final preparations for Games Time and the legacy work in the East End of London’.

Road to 2012: Aiming High is part of the London 2012 Festival, a spectacular 12-week nationwide celebration from 21 June until 9 September 2012, bringing together leading artists from across the world with the very best from the UK. 

Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘Road to 2012 is an essential element of the Olympic and Paralympic Games made possible through the generous support of BT and the close involvement of LOCOG. It celebrates exceptional British sportspeople, and some of the crucial figures working behind the scenes – whether they be coaches and managers or soil engineers, architects or the producers of the key ceremonies. It features outstanding photographic portraits that convey the determination, skill and mental prowess of those working at the highest level of international sport.’

Suzi Williams, Director, BT Group Marketing and Brand, said: ‘We began our journey with the National Portrait Gallery in 2009, setting out to share with the nation the stories of the people behind the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. It’s been great to watch the collection take shape, and to be at the heart of making it happen. This year’s exhibition, of course, is the crowning glory bringing together portraits from previous years as well as unveiling new photographs. The Road to 2012 collection at the National Portrait Gallery will be a lasting record of the story of the Games for generations to come, and I’m proud we at BT have helped make that possible.’

Ruth Mackenzie, Director, Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival, says: ‘The National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 project is a wonderful record of the range of people working to make London 2012 a huge success. It is great that audiences can see this exhibition in London, and key highlights in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Birmingham, all for free.’

The National Portrait Gallery has also commissioned video interviews with all the photographers discussing their photographic practice and involvement in the project, as well as interviews with sitters and behind the-scenes photographs of the shoots which reveal the stories.  

Road to 2012: Aiming High

19 July - 23 September 2012
National Portrait Gallery, London
Admission Free


Cardiff, adjacent to Wales Millennium Centre at Cardiff Bay: 30 March- 27 May 2012 

Edinburgh, Mound Precinct: 1 June - 8 July 2012 

Birmingham, Centenary Way: 13 July - 9 September 2012

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

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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:

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Jan Matthews b.1961

Photographed by Jillian Edelstein, 8th November 2011, Smithfield Market, London

Beth Tweddle b.1985

Beth Tweddle (third from left), Hannah Whelan (left), Jenni Pinches (second left) Rebecca Tunney (right). 

Photographed by Anderson & Low, 17th November 2011, Liverpool

Jodie Williams b.1993

Photographed by Nadav Kander, 15th December 2011, London