Changing Pace at the National Portrait Gallery


Today marks one year to go until the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games. The cost and the disruption often incite groans in people when you bring it up, but some people have been getting terribly excited about it, and that includes the National Portrait Gallery. Together with BT, it has undertaken the largest photographic project in its history to record both the seen and the unseen people behind the Games. This includes athletes, coaches, broadcasters, and organisers. Changing Pace, the second in the three part series, opened this week.

Emma Hardy and Finlay MacKay were the photographers commissioned for this project. Hardy focused on those responsible for staging the Olympics; MacKay took on the competitors and their coaches. Their approaches were remarkably different. Hardy’s portraits aren’t closely cropped, but they’re nothing compared to the sweeping panoramas produced by MacKay. And whilst I was struck by no one smiling, or at least looking vaguely happy, in any of Hardy’s pictures, I really struggled with a sense of unreality when looking at MacKay’s photographs.

Andrew Triggs Hodge and Pete Reed (right) by Finlay MacKay, 9 March 2011, Redgrave-Pinsent Rowing Lake, Caversham (copyright: Finlay MacKay - National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 Project)

Oh, they’re impressive, but I’m not sure I’d want them hanging on my wall. Perhaps that’s what makes them perfect for documenting a monumental project at a major art institution.

Michael Morpurgo and Greg Nugent, by Emma Hardy, 21 April 2011, Iddesleigh, Devon (copyright: Emma Hardy - National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 Project)

It’s free to wander around the exhibition, and if you happen to be passing, do drop in and take a look. It’s not something that I’d go out of my way for, though, and I’m someone who has at least a passing interest in just about any sport imaginable.

Changing Pace is showing at the National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, London, WC2H 0HE until 25 Spetember 2011.

(Featured image: Khalid Yafai (left, sparring with Irfan Ali) and Frank O’Sullivan by Finlay MacKay, 26 November 2010, Birmingham City Boxing Club, Birmingham – copyright, Finlay MacKay – National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 Project)