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

Now and Then: Photographs by John Swannell

Past display archive
19 April 2011 - 2 January 2012

Room 38a


This display consists of recently acquired works ranging from twenty-first century portraits of Tony Blair, Susan Boyle and Sir Roy Strong; to portraits from the 1980s of subjects such as Iman, Phil Lynott and George Michael. Swannell (b.1946) is also known for his official portraits of the royal family, here represented by Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, and for his fashion work, reflected by his portraits of Victoria Beckham and Sienna Miller.

After leaving school at sixteen, John Swannell first worked at Vogue Studios, assisting photographers such as Cecil Beaton. He worked for David Bailey from 1969–73, on projects including Bailey’s book, Goodbye Baby and Amen (1969), before establishing his own studio.

John Swannell’s work was first exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in the group exhibition Twenty for Today: New Portrait Photography (1985) and a solo exhibition of his work, Twenty Years On, was staged at the Gallery in 1997. The Gallery first began to acquire Swannell’s work in 1983, and now holds over 100 of his portraits covering the years 1970–2010. The Gallery’s full holdings of John Swannell’s work can be viewed on the Portrait Explorer in the IT Gallery of the National Portrait Gallery.

John Swannell’s numerous books include Fine Lines (1982), Twenty Years On (1996), I’m Still Standing (2002) and Nudes 1978–2006 (2006).

Past Photographic Exhibitions featuring John Swannell

Twenty Years On: Photographs by John Swannell
Twenty For Today: New Portrait Photography

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Get Creative

Develop your art skills

Discover our BP Next Generation short films made by artists. Follow step by step guides in drawing and painting techniques.

Improve your skills

Hold Still

Hold Still photography workshop

Reflect on your own experiences of lockdown through this easy-to-do from home, photographic exercise. 

Watch the video

Draw Like a Renaissance Master

Revisit The Encounter exhibition and learn about Renaissance and Baroque drawing methods and materials.

Improve your technique