NPG - National Photographic Record

Scope and Content

This series includes correspondence and agreements with photographers, files of correspondence with sitters, mainly relating to arrangements for the photography sessions, and sitter books.

Administrative / Biographical History

The National Photographic Record began in 1917, during the First World War, at the instigation of Walter Stoneman, the chief photographer for the long established firm of Russell & Sons. A selected range of eminent people of the day were invited to make an appointment to sit at Stoneman's studio and from each sitting a mounted print was added to the NPR.

Reproduction fees from the publication of any of these photographs were shared between the photographer and the National Portrait Gallery. The collection was made for record purposes only, with no intention of the results being exhibited.

Despite controversy caused by working exclusively with one selected photographer, the collection of postcard-sized prints of eminent people of the day grew over the years to an archive of over 10,000 subjects. Each year approximately 200 new subjects were added to an alphabetical sequence. Stoneman was succeeded, on his retirement and death, by Walter Bird (active 1958-1967), and then by Godfrey Argent (active 1967-1970).

In 1971 an exhibition was staged of works taken for the NPR by Godfrey Argent, with the intention of following this with annual or occasional exhibitions of newly taken or commissioned work by a varied range of photographers.

The National Photographic Record project was brought to a close in 1971, after the "ten year rule" was abandoned in 1969. This rule had previously been in place at the Gallery and meant that only portraits of sitters who had been dead for ten years could be collected (with the exception of the reigning monarch). After the abandonment of this rule contemporary portraits, including photographs, could be commissioned or collected in the usual way, and the National Photographic Record was felt to be unnecessary.

Access Information

Available to view by appointment in the Heinz Archive and Library Public Study Room, to make an appointment contact Archive Reception . Although records are generally available for public consultation, some information in them, such as personal data or information supplied to the Gallery in confidence, may be restricted.

Other Finding Aids

The complete catalogue for this archive can be searched via the NPG Archive Catalogue .

Conditions Governing Use

Personal photography is permitted for research purposes only. Photocopying is not permitted.