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National Portrait Gallery purchases “Magnificent Seven” iconic portraits

Somerset-based photographer Anita Corbin has seven good reasons to celebrate as the National Portrait Gallery purchases seven of her portraits from her ground breaking project “First Women” which will be unveiled in 2018 to mark the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.

LadyHale-4Anita’s project First Women looks at how women will be remembered over the past 100 years. In the years leading up to 2018, the 100th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage, Anita is shooting and collecting 100 iconic portraits of 21st century women who have achieved the landmark title “First Woman” across a range of fields.

It is exactly five years since Anita started to develop First Women and she is delighted that the “half way” point has been marked by the National Portrait Gallery acquiring seven of the portraits that will comprise part of the First Women Collection. Anita says, “After five years it is fantastic to see my lifetime dream of creating a legacy for future generations of women really taking shape and becoming a reality. By making a photographic record of the remarkable women who are achieving “Firsts,” many of whom are in traditional male dominated sectors like the law, business, maths and engineering, I hope to help women in the UK understand and appreciate the achievements of their forebears.”

Lady Brenda Hale (pictured above), first woman Law Lord, was also asked to share, together with every woman Anita is photographing, her thoughts about what has inspired her in her life, and she says, “My inspiration, and my aspirations, are, I realise, summed up in the motto on my Coat of Arms ‘omnia feminae acquissimae’: women are equal to everything (but also women are fair and just in everything). I may not live up to it, but I can try.”

Anita has also made a gift to the Gallery of one of the first portraits she took in 2010 which is of Baroness Betty Boothroyd, the first woman Speaker in the House of Commons and who has become Patron of First Women.

There is a sneak preview of what will be on offer when the First Women project is launched in 2018 as  four of the First Women portraits will be shown in the National Portrait Gallery in Room 37a from 15th September to 5th January 2014 as part of a new display: “Achievement: New Photographs 2011-2013”. The First Women portraits on display will be Dame Helen Alexander, Baroness Patricia Scotland, Dr Jean Venables and Jil Matheson.
Listed below is the full list of the seven ground breaking “firsts” purchased by the Gallery and highlighting the significant progress that women have made in the past 100 years, particularly in what were previously seen as male dominated professions and positions.

  • Lady Brenda Hale – 1st woman Law Lord
  • Baroness Patricia Scotland – 1st woman Attorney General (see pic top)
  • Baroness Helene Hayman – 1st woman Lord  Speaker
  • Baroness Usha Prashar – 1st woman Civil Service Commissioner
  • Dr Jean Venables – 1st female President of ICE  (Inst of Civil Eng)
  • Jil Matheson – 1st woman the first woman to run the  decennial population census
  • Dame Helen Alexander – 1st woman President of  CBI

Anita says, “I truly believe that photography as a visual tool can inspire and change attitudes, and by creating role models we can encourage young women to aspire to a life in professions like Law, Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths that were previously seen as male dominated.”

Anita says, “I have been a portrait photographer all my working life and I am passionate about creating images of girls and women that make people stop and think. My passion is fired by years of working as an editorial photographer with the Sunday Times and Observer colour magazines, where I was often sent around the world to cover ‘human interest’ stories involving women.

“When on assignment I use my intuition and creativity, to shine new light on a person, to give the portrait originality and longevity. As a working photographer I have learnt to believe in my own convictions, developing my own style, creating portraits that I believe reveal the ‘true self’ of my subjects. I encourage my subjects to ‘be themselves’ and to trust me to interpret their individuality.

“It is this strong belief in the power of photography that has lead me to create my collection of ‘First Women’ portraits with the mission statement ‘Inspiring women in the UK’.”

In 2018 Anita will launch the First Women travelling exhibition throughout the UK in celebration of 20th and 21st century women. The exhibition will feature three types of photography: portraiture, documentary and archive and will be linked to an interactive website as well as the publication of a beautiful photographic book. Each unique portrait will feature extended captions and introductory essays.

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