Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Stephen Hawking

This Stephen Hawking portrait has been acquired by the National Portrait Gallery London. Even in this world of celebrity there are few living humans who are guaranteed a place in history, along side Da Vinci, Mozart and Galileo (Hawking's personal hero). The shoot was organised very precisely as there is a limit to Hawking’s ability to give energy to a photographic shoot and whilst we always see Hawking alone, he has a huge team both personally and at Cambridge University that enable him. My approach was to place him within space existentially at the centre of things, the metaphor being that our entire understanding of reality is challenged by his theories. How do you communicate the incredible genius as well as the normalcy of a person when the parameters for reading the personality are entirely masked? At the black board I reflected the flash off the surface to create a sort of sun or supernova and I imagine Hawking orbiting this in his chair.

When photographing people with disability it is essential not to expect them to conform to the the aesthetics of the ‘everyday’ world. The visual processes that we use to define personality do not always apply and when we try and force the issue we can patronise and mis-communicate the reality of a person’s life. No matter how masking of the personality the disability is, we must find a way to find a way to communicate humanity always seeing everyone as equal to ourselves.

This image was part of a portrait session to promote the BBC Reith lecture where he focuses on the nature of black holes.

Thanks especially to BBC, NPG, Anna Lenihan for their unwavering trust and faith and Prof Hawking and his amazing team.

Professor Stephen Hawking, Cambridge University © Richard Ansett acquired by the National Portrait Gallery, London 




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