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Portrait of Britain – Bath Spa University

Portrait of Britain success for Photography graduates

Monday, 26 February, 2024

Two Bath Spa University BA Photography graduates, Lily Miles and Natalie Ashbrook have seen their photographs displayed on screens and billboards across the country after being listed in 2024’s Portrait of Britain.  

Last summer, the two Bath Spa graduates answered an open call for images that “celebrate the many faces of modern Britain” not yet knowing that their work would seize not only the judge’s attention but the entire nation’s.   

Described as “an exhibition by the people, for the people,” Portrait of Britain is the nation’s largest annual photography exhibition. Each year, 100 winners are selected to have their portraits exhibited on JCDecaux’s digital screens up and down the country, giving the winners unrivalled visibility and reaching over 90 percent of the UK each week.   

As winners of the competition, Lily and Natalie have seen their work projected alongside the arresting portraiture of a diverse and changing nation. Their work swept the country, appearing in train stations, airports, shopping centres, roadside poster sites, iconic London bus shelters and beyond.  

Speaking on Portrait of Britain’s social value for the British Journal of Photography, CEO and Creative Director of the journal, Mick Moore said:  

“It is in each other that we see ourselves and form our sense of place. Portrait of Britain captures the quirky, the mundane, the here and now of the extraordinary every day in which we live.”  

Lily and Natalie will also feature alongside the shortlisted photographs in Portrait of Britain Vol. 6, published by Bluecoat Press – a dedicated publisher for UK-based photographers that has printed the work of industry leading photographers such as Tish Murtha, Daniel Meadows and Markéta Luskačová.

Discussing the success of his two former students, BA (Hons) Photography lecturer James Arthur Allen said: 

“We are delighted that our graduates continue to garner international recognition and establish themselves in the photographic industry through nominations and awards. Lily and Natalie’s achievements are incredibly important and highlight the professionalism of our students and the quality of the work they produce. We are all so very proud of them and love seeing them when they return to Locksbrook campus to visit and speak with our current students.” 

Lily’s portrait, ‘Karen’ depicted a woman whose life had been dedicated to caring for others. Reflecting on what the project meant to her, Lily said:  

“The portrait of Karen is a special one to me and part of a new project I’m undertaking. Karen, a counsellor most of her adult life, lost the father of her children to suicide a few years ago and I felt very honoured to photograph Karen and share her story.”  

Lily attributes much of her success to the skills she developed at university. Now, working as a Medical Photographer alongside pursuing personal projects, Lily looked back on her time at Bath Spa and the community of professional creatives that nurtured her confidence. She said:  

“The tutors who led my course, Stephen Vaughan, Helen Harris and James Arthur Allen were amazing, and it was fantastic to learn from them. They shared their passion for photography and the projects and images that inspired them. Their knowledge was like having access to a photographic dictionary for three years! They were always there, offering guidance, and I’m extremely grateful for their commitment.”  

Natalie’s project, ‘The Whistling of Foul Truths’ depicts a black and white photograph of a woman. Describing her work in Portrait of Britain Vol. 6, she said:  

“This work uncovers the surreal and continuous presence of grief, memory and trauma in the everyday. Causing hysteria to take form. Creating space to expose and understand the waves of grief that have already drowned me. Initial fears and panic have transformed into a floating sensation, a void. This mortality has created in me a desire for definition, seeking the end to grief. Through this exploration and its reflections, I have come to understand that I will never feel dry again.”  

This year’s judges included photographer Nadav Kander, Russ O’Connell, Picture Editor at The Sunday Times Magazine photographer and curator, Ronan McKenzie and editor-in-chief at 1000 Words magazine, Tim Clark. You can view all the Portrait of Britain winners on the British Journal of Photography webpage

If you would like to know more about studying Photography at BSU, visit the Photography course page to find out more.

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