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Neil Libbert: Photojournalist
The first solo display of photographs by Neil Libbert opens at the National Portrait Gallery on 17 September 2012. The display of 10 portraits will celebrate Libbert’s 55 year career as a photojournalist by showcasing a selection of his portraits from the Gallery’s Collection.
The display focuses on key works from 1958 – 1984, many on show for the first time, and will include two portraits that were used on the front page of the Guardian newspaper. One of these photographs is of conservative politician and statesman, Sir Winston Churchill, with Sir Charles Wheeler, President of the Royal Academy, taken in 1963. The other cover photograph is of actress Jayne Mansfield, union leader Ted Hill and general secretary of the Labour party, Morgan Philips. This portrait was taken just two years into Libbert’s photographic career, at the opening of the Trades Union Congress in Blackpool a day after Mansfield had switched on the Blackpool illuminations. Another portrait on display is of a young Helen Mirren (1969) taken inside her flat at a time when she was playing Cressida in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Troilus and Cressida. Other portraits on display are of novelist Kingsley Amis, artists Francis Bacon and Edward Burra, footballer George Best, photographer Patrick Lichfield, singer and actor Paul Robeson, and playwright Harold Pinter.
Born in Salford, Neil Libbert studied at the Regional College of Art in Manchester before starting to work as a photographer and opening his own studio in the city in 1957. He joined the staff of the Manchester Guardian, and moved to the paper's London office in 1961. He stayed with the Guardian until 1965 before working under contract to The Sunday Times, the New York Times, Granada TV and the Illustrated London News until 1968 when he again became a freelance photographer. Libbert still regularly covers performing arts photography for the Observer.
His work has been exhibited at the National Theatre, Camden Arts Centre, Whitechapel Gallery, Zelda Cheatle Gallery, Michael Hoppen Gallery and the Stables Gallery, New Mexico amongst others, and 16 of his works are held in the Collection of the National Portrait Gallery. In 1999 he was Nikon News Photographer of the Year and won a World Press Photo Award for his exclusive coverage of the bombings in The Admiral Duncan pub, Soho which made the front page of the Guardian. Libbert has also received an award for his coverage of the homeless and has made his enduring reputation through street photography and reportage, including his coverage of the Brixton riots in 1981.