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.

Phillip Prodger

Phillip Prodger

Head of Photographs Collection

Job description

As Head of Photographs I oversee acquisitions, research, loan and display of photographs from the 19th century to the present and help shape the Gallery’s photographic exhibitions programme. I also manage the curatorial team in photography, which includes assistant and associate curators and cataloguers. Prior to joining the staff I curated the exhibition Hoppé Portraits: Society, Studio and Street (2011) at the gallery. I am a member of the Gallery’s Senior Management Team.


Growing up in Hong Kong, I developed a strong interest in art and took my first degree in Political Economy and Asian Studies at Williams College in Massachusetts. I taught photography and photographic history at the Hong Kong Arts Centre before taking up a junior post at the Stanford University Art Museum, later obtaining a Master’s degree at Stanford. I went on to study history of art at Cambridge University, where I wrote my Ph.D. thesis on artists in the circle of Charles Darwin. I have held several curatorial posts including at the Saint Louis Art Museum, the National Gallery of Canada, and the Peabody Essex Museum, where I was founding Curator of Photography. In 2013 I received a Focus award for contributions to the appreciation and enjoyment of photography.

Research interests

I began my career as a curator of prints, drawings and photographs and have always had a wide-ranging interest in art. My first photographic projects featured nineteenth century figures Eadweard Muybridge and Charles Darwin, and explored the origins of instantaneous photography. In recent years I have increasingly worked on modern and contemporary subjects, curating projects such as Man Ray | Lee Miller, Partners in Surrealism; and Ansel Adams, At the Water’s Edge, which was shown at the National Maritime Museum, London. I am particularly interested in the interface between still photography and cinema, and photography and literature. I recently published an article on Jack London’s photography and I am currently researching a project about Robert Louis Stevenson’s travels in the South Pacific.

Recent Publications

E.O. Hoppé: The German Work, [Gottingen, Steidl, 2015]

Ansel Adams, At the Water’s Edge, [Salem, Peabody Essex Museum, 2012]

Ernst Haas: Color Correction, (with William Ewing) [Gottingen: Steidl, 2011]

Hoppé Portraits: Society, Studio, and Street,  [London: National Portrait Gallery, 2011]

Man Ray | Lee Miller, Partners in Surrealism [London: Merrell, 2011]

Darwin’s Camera: Art and Photography in the Theory of Evolution, [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010]

Paul Outerbridge: New Color Photographs of California and Mexico, (with Graham Howe and William Ewing) [Portland: Nazraeli, 2009]

Selected Publications