“I think perhaps that a real portrait is one that suggests to the viewer that the subject portrayed is alive, be it a person or even, let’s say, an apple,” photographer Toby Glanville told Liv Siddall in an interview a few months back. “For a photographic portrait to work, I think the author’s ego must be held in abeyance in order to allow the subject to hold the stage.”
Toby’s a man who practises what he preaches, and in this series of portraits of rural workers we see his exemplary portraiture, currently on show as part of The Photographer’s Gallery’s Work, Rest and Play: British Photography from the 1960s to Today satellite show in China. The images were all taken in the late 90s, and are mostly of “ artisanal food producers and labourers,” says Toby. “Locations vary from a basement flat in Notting Hill Gate to a pig farm in rural Scotland; dinner ladies in Kent; fish packers in Newlyn Cornwall.” Some were for magazine features, others were personal projects and some were for a commissioned book project, but all carry an almost unnervingly candid quality; the workers who are often unnoticed are suddenly the star of the show, very much “holding the stage” and shot superbly.
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