The National Portrait Gallery has unveiled an exhibition to mark the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in England and Wales. It uses portraits of prominent gay figures to illustrate how attitudes have changed. Singer Will Young was photographed by Alan Olley in 2003, a year after winning Pop Idol.
The exhibition also features quotes from the sitters about their experiences of coming out. This 2004 Derry Moore portrait of actor Ben Whishaw is accompanied by his words: “It takes courage and people have to do it in their own time. It’s hard to have a conversation with people you’ve known your whole life about a very intimate thing…”
Alexander McQueen and Isabella Blow were photographed by David LaChapelle in 1996. Blow was a magazine editor credited with discovering McQueen as a young fashion designer. Blow died in 2007, McQueen in 2010.
Seven portraits are featured in the exhibition, titled Speak its Name!, including Scottish poet and novelist Jackie Kay, photographed by Caroline Forbes in 2007. The portraits on display have been selected from an accompanying book, also titled Speak its Name!, which features 150 images.
Actress and model Saffron Burrows are seen in a 2001 portrait by Derrick Santini. Actor Simon Callow, who has written the introduction to the book, said the portraits “pay witness to the transformation in attitudes to homosexuality in my lifetime, celebrating the contribution of the remarkable men and women and people of fluid gender who enabled that revolution”.
The exhibition opened at the London gallery on Friday and is the first in a year-long programme of displays and events at the gallery exploring sexuality, gender, art and identity. This photo of Olympic diver Tom Daley was taken by Bettina von Zwehl in 2010.
Labour MP Angela Eagle also features in the exhibition in a photo taken by Victoria Carew Hunt in 1998. Ms Eagle has been an MP since 1992 and briefly ran as a contender for leadership of the Labour party earlier this year.
Photo: (TOP) by DAVID LACHAPELLE 1996