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Tariq Ali; Vanessa Redgrave

© John Walmsley

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Tariq Ali; Vanessa Redgrave

by John Walmsley
bromide print, 17 March 1968
17 3/4 in. x 13 3/4 in. (451 mm x 350 mm)
Purchased, 1978
Photographs Collection
NPG x6394

Sittersback to top

  • Tariq Ali (1943-), Student activist; writer and film producer. Sitter in 3 portraits.
  • Vanessa Redgrave (1937-), Actress; daughter of Sir Michael Redgrave. Sitter in 31 portraits.

Artistback to top

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Faces of the Century, 1999 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 22 October 1999 to 30 January 2000), p. 133
  • Perry, Gill (introduction) Roach, Joseph (appreciation) and West, Shearer (appreciation), The First Actresses: Nell Gwyn to Sarah Siddons, 2011 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 2011 to 8 January 2012), p. 132
  • Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 287 Read entry

    The daughter of two distinguished actors, Sir Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson, Vanessa Redgrave is thought by many to be the leading British actress of her generation. She made her London début in A Touch of the Sun in 1958; soon after, she became a principal with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and, were it not for other commitments, she would never be out of the West End. At the same time she has had a prolific career in films, which include Morgan – A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966; Best Actress award at Cannes), Camelot (1967), Isadora (1968), Julia (1977; Academy award), Yanks (1979), Wetherby (1987) and Prick Up Your Ears (1987). She has said ‘I choose all my roles very carefully so that when my career is finished I will have covered all our recent history of oppression’, and she brings to politics, which since the early 1960s have become an increasingly important part of her life, the same passion and intensity which she shows in her acting. With her brother Corin she helped to found the Workers’ Revolutionary Party, and has stood for Parliament. She has taken part in anti-nuclear demonstrations, and was once arrested. On 27 October 1968, six months after the student riots in Paris, she led the anti-Vietnam War march on the United States Embassy in Grosvenor Square, and she is shown here on that march, with (left) the revolutionary student-leader Tariq Ali, about to present a letter to the United States ambassador. Born in Lahore, Ali studied politics and philosophy at Oxford, and became the first Pakistani to be elected President of the Oxford Union. He is the author of books on world history and politics, most recently Street Fighting Years: An Autobiography of the Sixties and Revolution from Above: Where is the Soviet Union Going? He has also written plays for television, and was a founder director of Bandung Productions.

    Since leaving art school John Walmsley has been a freelance photojournalist, working for The Listener, New Society and The Sunday Times, among others. He has had one-man shows in London and Vienna, and has published books on the child psychologist and educationalist A. S. Neill. This photograph was taken while he was still at art school: ‘I’d hitched up to London (with a borrowed college camera), took my pictures, and then hitched home again’. It is in essence a piece of reportage, but by careful cropping, he captures the full force of Redgrave’s idealism, giving it a histrionic turn, setting her head high in the frame, in a way which recalls the revolutionary posters of Eastern Europe. According to Walmsley, ‘The white headband is a Vietnamese sign of mourning’.

Placesback to top

Events of 1968back to top

Current affairs

Enoch Powell delivers his 'Rivers of Blood' speech in Birmingham in opposition to anti-discrimination legislation and immigration from the commonwealth. The speech is usually regarded as racist and blamed for stirring up racial prejudice. Powell was sacked from the shadow cabinet as a result, but received considerable public approval at the time for his views.
Fay Sislin becomes England first black woman police officer.

Art and science

Beaton Portraits is the first ever photographic exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Under the directorship of Roy Strong, the exhibition introduced a new, theatrical approach to display, and was so popular that the national press reported on the length of queues to get in and it had to be extended twice.


Civil unrest escalates in France as student protesters, joined by striking workers, clash with the police. The events came to represent the conflict between the new, liberalised, left-wing generation and the forces of authority and conservatism. French protests were mirrored by others abroad including the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia, where political liberalisation was achieved for a few months before the country was invaded by the Soviet Union.

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