The 19 faces of Roy Strong: John Swannell’s portraits at the National Portrait Gallery

Is the desire to have your image captured vanity? I am not a selfie fan, I do not put timers and take pictures of myself or own the much-laughed-at yet everyone-has-one selfie stick. However I always had a desire to have my picture taken.

I think it is mainly due to the fact that I don’t have a lot of pictures from my childhood as I was growing up. When friends would take out massive photo albums (yes, we printed out pictures back then), I would have an envelope with a few pictures inside. The main reason was a relative borrowing our albums and then losing them to the dismay and rage of my parents.

So, I started taking pictures. I guess that in my adolescence and early twenties I was the group’s photographer, always with a one use camera at hand; I think I was hoping that at some point someone would say ‘would you like to be in the picture?

Nowadays I ask: ‘would you mind taking a picture of me?‘ and I don’t feel like others will think I am vain.

As I am standing in front of the Strong at 80 wall with 19 pictures of Sir Roy Strong taken by John Swannell and I cannot help but wonder if this is art, pop culture or an experiment on ego-stroking.

As I tilt my head to the left I decide that it is not relevant. Art can be ego-stroking; pop culture can be art; and life imitating art imitating life can be a meta-trip that has no bounds.

Now, you can smile for the camera – as long as you share it.



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