Aston People head for National Portrait Gallery

Paul Golby, Chief Executive of E.On is one of the portraits heading for the National Portrait Gallery

Aston University has unveiled the latest in its series of ‘Aston People’ photographs, taken by renowned photographer Robert Taylor. Taylor’s work is in the permanent collections of the National Portrait Gallery, The Victoria and Albert Museum and the Royal Society.

Four of the Aston portraits have now been selected for the permanent collection at the National Portrait Gallery together with a portrait of the Vice-Chancellor which was originally commissioned by the UKRC in recognition of her outstanding achievements in engineering.

The Aston People project began in 2007, when the Vice-Chancellor decided to celebrate the achievements of inspirational staff and students through a series of black and white photographic portraits. When viewed together, the photographs epitomise ‘Aston-ness’ – determination, endeavour, innovation, all underpinned by a warmth and friendliness that make the University a truly inspirational place to work or study. The images are permanently displayed within the Main Building.

Robert Taylor was born and raised in Sutton Coldfield in Birmingham the 1950s, but left the city in the mid- 1970s to join the Royal Air Force. After qualifying as a barrister, Taylor came to photography after working in educational publishing in Nigeria and the UK. He has been a freelance photographer for the last 20 years.

He says: ‘The Aston People Project has actually been one of my most memorable commissions. My encounters with the very wide range of characters involved were fun, fascinating and often very moving. I am so grateful to all those people who agreed to take part. One of my most favoured working methods is the combining of often striking and intimate portraiture with the individual voices of my subjects, either answering my questions or making some sort of relevant declaration about themselves or the project that required the portraits. The additional element of a ‘voice’ often provides an insight about someone that might get lost in words or images alone, however well crafted.’

The original project has now evolved into a celebration of Aston’s alumni and honorary graduates – whether people at the top of their professions or talented young graduates who are just starting to make a name for themselves in their chosen professions. ... people were selected to be photographed and the first images have been put on display at the University.

Words by Sally Finn

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