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‘Drawn by light’ at the UK’s National Media Museum

— March 2015

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John Swannell, Naked Vine, 1985, The Royal Photographic Society Collection, National Media Museum/SSPL © John Swannell

John Swannell is guest of honour at exhibition launch on 21 March

Newly acquired works by photographers John Swannell and Susan Derges have been added to the exhibition ‘Drawn By Light: The Royal Photographic Society Collection’ which opens at the National Media Museum, Bradford today (Friday, 20 March).

Images by photographic artist Susan Derges, and the fashion, landscape and royal photographer, John Swannell, were acquired by the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) Collection this year after both artists received Honorary Fellowships of the RPS in 2014.

Susan Derges’ image Crescent Moon-Briars (2003) and Swannell’s Naked Vine (1985) will now feature among more than 250 exhibited highlights from the Royal Photographic Society Collection, which is cared for by the National Media Museum.

John Swannell has been producing fashion and beauty photography, official royal portraits and landscapes for more than 40 years. Naked Vine is taken from a series of nudes produced while he was working on photo shoots for magazines such as Vogue and Tatler in the 1980s.

Susan Derges trained as a painter and is known for creating camera-less photographs, produced by exposing photographic paper, often submerged in water, to ambient light sources. Her work focuses on the natural world, such as the moonlight, water and foliage seen in Crescent Moon-Briars and other images.

Curator Colin Harding, curator of ‘Drawn By Light’ said:

These new acquisitions show that the RPS Collection is a living archive which continues to be added to and expanded. The Royal Photographic Society is still, more than 150 years since it was formed, celebrating and acquiring works which demonstrate the best of current photographic practice.

John Swannell is the guest of honour at the public launch of ‘Drawn By Light’at the National Media Museum on Saturday 21 March 2015. A range of free events includes an open photography competition, Photographers’ Question Time with leading photographic practitioners, and The Portrait Sideshow will be taking free photographic portraits of visitors. More information about the event can be found at

John Swannell

John Swannell worked as an assistant at Vogue studios aged 16, and then assisted David Bailey for four years before setting up his own studio and photographing for magazines such as Vogue,Harpers & Queen, The Sunday Times and Tatler.

He has photographed Diana, The Princess of Wales, HRH The Princess Royal, the Duke and Duchess of Wessex, HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, HM The Queen (including both Golden and Diamond Jubilees).

His photographs are held at The National Portrait Gallery in London, The V&A, The Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh and The Museum of Modern Art in New York. He recently photographed Helena Bonham Carter for the Fishlove project.

Susan Derges

Susan Derges is a photographic artist whose work has been exhibited and collected by the Hayward Gallery, London, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, The MET New York, Houston MFA, Museum of Contemporary Art San Francisco and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston amongst others.

In May 2015 her work will be exhibited at Photo London through the Victoria and Albert Museum’s exhibition of works selected from its collection, and also at Purdy Hicks Gallery, Bankside, where a one-person show will take place in November.

 ‘Drawn by Light’ is co-curated by the National Media Museum’s Colin Harding, Claude W. Sui, curator, and Stephanie Herrmann, associate curator, of the Forum of International Photography of the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen, Mannheim, Germany. It first appeared at Media Space in the Science Museum and is presented in collaboration with the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen, where it will go on display in 2017.   

RPS Honorary Fellowships are awarded annually to selected artists who have demonstrated ‘an intimate connection with the science or fine art of photography’.

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