The World's Most Photographed

The National Portrait Gallery and the BBC present an exhibition and television series that have for the first time been jointly developed by the two organisations. The World's Most Photographed is a completely integrated project consisting of an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery of around 100 photographs, a BBC TWO series and an associated book exploring the way photography has been used and manipulated to construct the image of 10 figures from history.

The World's Most Photographed is an in-depth and wide-ranging exploration of how photography has been used throughout history in the pursuit of fame and power: how it has been controlled and managed in the creation of pin-ups such as Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley.

how Mahatma Ghandi used it in a sophisticated way to create an image of simplicity and integrity which would help to undermine the British Empire; and how it was turned into a sinister tool of mass manipulation by Adolf Hitler as he launched his deadly assault on humanity and civilisation.

By unearthing photographs which have previously been lost or suppressed, together with more familiar images and those that were simply allowed to slip from view, the exhibition and television series explore the power of the image and the nature of iconography, going beyond the often carefully constructed public image to reveal much more about the personalities, lives and intentions of the subjects.

Highlights include:

  • Muhammad Ali - the remarkable photographs that lay hidden in a drawer for 25 years…
  • James Dean - an extraordinary series of macabre photographs, unreleased for over 30 years…
  • Greta Garbo - did she really "want to be alone"?… images of a star who turned away from the camera….
  • Audrey Hepburn - how the deprivations of her war-torn childhood shaped her career as actress and prepared her for a far-reaching role with Unicef…
  • Marilyn Monroe - how the first American goddess used photography to create a phenomenon, how a single image threatened to destroy her, and how for one day in New York, it showed her at her happiest…
  • Elvis Presley - how a schoolboy outwitted The King's controlling manager, scooped the world's press and sold his unique snaps of Elvis in the school canteen…
  • Queen Victoria - how photography played a vital role in defining her sovereignty and defending her against a rising tide of republicanism; how it re-established her supremacy after a decade of seclusion; and how she preserved the memory of Prince Albert in the years after his death…
  • Mahatma Gandhi - how he manipulated his appearance to bind his nation, how he used photography to challenge and undermine the British Empire and to create a new identity for India…
  • Adolf Hitler - how the Nazi dictator at first mistrusted photography greatly but then came to understand and utilise its power to project the image of a powerful leader and further his horrific plans for world domination…
  • John F Kennedy - how, in a new dawn for America, photography created and sustained the myths of 'Camelot' and concealed the President's frailties and infidelities…

The exhibition is curated by Robin Muir, curator and writer on photography and a former picture editor of British Vogue and the Sunday Telegraph Magazine. Exhibition details: Admission £4, concessions £2.50. Porter Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, St Martin's Place, London, WC2H 0HE. Nearest Tube: Leicester Square/Charing Cross

National Portrait Gallery opening hours: daily 10.00am - 6.00pm. Late Opening: Thursdays and Fridays until 9.00pm - ends October 23rd.

Updated: Oct 22, 2009 
Elvis Presley on: eBay, Amazon


circleG (profilecontact) wrote on Oct 24, 2009report abuse
Great photo, would have liked to have checked it out but its too late. Elvis in London? if only ...
Jerome-the-third (profilecontact) wrote on Oct 22, 2009report abuse
Dd he think of Spancox or Photoshop?..
Jerome-the-third (profilecontact) wrote on Oct 22, 2009report abuse
I wonder what he thought..
JimmyCool (profilecontact) wrote on Oct 22, 2009report abuse
I loved that pic!

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