As part of Black History Month, our Youth Forum delved into the Collection to look at key contemporary sporting figures. From ballet dancers to footballers, they’ve selected eight portraits that inspire them and celebrate the impact and achievements of Black British sportspeople.
Rachel Yankey (Footballer; Olympian) by Mary Dunkin, 2005, NPG x127391
Women’s football has so often been swept under the rug – we wanted to highlight Rachel and her achievements. We love the composition and the lighting in the photograph - it makes it look like the golden hour. The portrait comes across as really nostalgic and the informal setting makes her look very relatable.
Ade Adepitan (Television presenter and wheelchair basketball player; Paralympian) by Brian Griffin, 2010, NPG P1706
Ade has such an amazing life story - he’s had a lot of hardships but achieved so much and comes across like an upbeat, lovely guy. His achievements really transcend sport too - we know him more as a TV and documentary presenter. We love that he doesn’t let his disability prevent him from doing anything – he’s travelled across the world with his work – he’s such a trailblazer!
Marcus Rashford (Footballer) by Elliott Morgan, 2019, NPG x201368
We love that this portrait of Marcus makes him look so warm and it has a down to earth quality – it feels like we could be hanging out with him in the park. The black and white tones help it to stand out and make it look so classic.
The best thing is he’s stayed so humble, his work has taken him to amazing heights but he hasn’t forgotten where he came from. He helps others and shows compassion and kindness – it’s so refreshing.
Ashley Banjo (Choreographer, dancer and broadcaster) by Simon Frederick, 2016, NPG P2057
We really like Ashley’s dance group Diversity - we remember watching when they won Britain’s Got Talent!
This portrait is really beautifully shot – we like the contrast between the highlights and his shirt, which really help to make his expression stand out, and the slight blur adds emotion. Because he’s not looking at the camera, it makes you wonder what he’s looking at or thinking about - he looks quite sombre and sad.
Nicola Adams (Boxer; Olympian) by Kate Peters, 2012, NPG P1831
Nicola is such an icon for LGBTQ+, she’s been so many ‘firsts’ - first female boxer to become an Olympic champion after winning gold at London 2012, first openly LGBTQ+ person to win an Olympic boxing gold medal and more recently, part of the first same sex couple on Strictly Come Dancing.
Mo Farah (Long distance runner; Olympian) by Kate Peters, 2012, NPG P1833
This portrait gives us chills, it’s visually stunning and Mo has such a striking expression. He was born in Somalia and came to the UK when he was young - he’s everything we should represent – a testament to Britain’s diversity and acceptance.
Carlos Acosta (Ballet dancer) by Sal Idriss, 2004, NPG x126372
Ballet is often seen as a female activity, it’s amazing to see men like Carlos take on that role and make it their own.
This is a gorgeous photo, we like that he looks like he’s taking a quick break in the studio - the beads of sweat on his forehead, his tousled hair – it looks timeless and friendly.
Ola Abidogun (Sprinter; Paralympian) by Bettina von Zwehl, 2010, NPG P1726
We love that Ola looks so unapologetic in this photo – he’s proudly showing off his body on the track. His defiance is really inspiring and amazing.
The colours and contrasts in the portrait are very eye grabbing – we really like the way the sun is hitting his skin and beautiful tones of his top and the background.
The Youth Forum collaborate to shape the offer and relevance of the Gallery for young people. We work with the Youth Forum on new ideas for interpretation and display, activities and resources for young people and reviews of our exhibitions. If you’d like to get involved with the Youth Forum, you can find out more about the group on our website and follow @NPGYouth on social media for updates.