Previously unseen portraits by photographer Jason Bell, inspired by the 120,000 British men and women living in New York City, go on display at the National Portrait Gallery next week.
Bell has photographed a cross-section of the leading British born figures living in the city, including Hollywood actress Kate Winslet, writer Zoë Heller, artist Cecily Brown, Nicola Perry, owner of Tea and Sympathy, musician Sting, geneticist Sir Paul Nurse and historian Simon Schama.
Since 2003, Jason Bell has lived between London and New York. Whilst shooting an assignment for American Vogue about anglophilia with English models in an English tearoom, he became interested in investigating the English people living in the city.
Bell has since met cops, plumbers, cab drivers, rock stars, actors, editors, deep-sea divers and helicopter pilots who let him photograph them.
“I went for a walk in Central Park with Sting, and for a cup of tea on Kate Winslet’s roof terrace, sat on Zoë Heller’s stoop and watched Stephen Daldry bicycle down 8th Avenue. I was given a private tour of both the Metropolitan Museum and the Barneys shop windows,” he said.
“I started with a blank canvas and was amazed by the number of Englishmen and women who have made such a large impact on the cultural life of the city. And amid all the questions about why people had come here and what they had left behind, I learnt a little bit more about what it means to be English, what it means to be a New Yorker, and where the two intersect.”
Born in Camden, London in 1969, Jason Bell was given his first camera at the age of five. He graduated in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Oxford University in 1989 but had already decided on a career as a portrait photographer. Bell’s work regularly appears in Vanity Fair and Vogue and he has shot film posters for Billy Elliot, About a Boy and Love Actually.
His work has been published in three books GiveGet, Hats Off and Gold Rush and a fourth book of this new project will be published in 2010 to coincide with the display.
An Englishman in New York: Photographs by Jason Bell opens 24 August until 17 April 2011, Room 38, the National Portrait Gallery in London
An Englishman in New York is published by Dewi Lewis Publishing (RRP £35.00) 65 plates, large format hardback, with text and interviews by Guy Harrington.