This seminar showcased excellent examples of collections undertaking collaborations with artists, sponsoring mentorships, and fostering participation projects with various audiences. Many of these innovative portrait-focused projects were taking place in the West Midlands at the time, as part of the Art in the Heart project. The seminar aimed to present some of these inspiring case studies and share the reflections of those involved; artists, collections, and participants.


Our venues for the day were Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (morning) and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts (afternoon), and the seminar was co-chaired by Toby Watley, Head of Programming at BMAG and Robert Wenley, Deputy Director at the Barber.



Seminar 16 July – programme





Synopses of presentations



From the series 'Pit Profiles: Re-profiled' by Anton Want © Anton Want/NCMME 2012

From the series ‘Pit Profiles: Re-profiled’ by Anton Want.
© Anton Want/NCMME 2012

Anton Want, Photographer

Pit Profiles: Re-profiled – The Changing Face of an Industry

In 2011, the National Coal Mining Museum for England commissioned Anton to portray workers at the Kellingley Colliery in North Yorkshire. The project was inspired by the work of H. Andrew Freeth (1912-1986) who was himself commissioned, shortly after the coal industry was nationalised in 1947, to record miners across the coalfields. Freeth’s on-the-spot drawings and miners’ biographies were  published in the monthly journal Coal between 1947 and 1952, and many of the original portraits are held by the NCMME. Pit Profiles: Re-profiled provides a modern-day reflection on workers’ lives through portrait photography combined with oral-history interviews and written profiles. This talk was a reflection on the nature of the Pit Profiles: Re-profiled commission and how the original work and Freeth’s approach effected the new work’s direction.  It also discussed the aims and outcomes of such a commission from the artist’s perspective.


Anton Want’s presentation notes


Contact Anton directly (@Anton_Want) regarding the accompanying ‘Pit Profiles: Re-profiled‘ limited edition publication of his portraits from Kellingley Colliery.




Benjamin Stone (1838-1914), politician and photographer by Sir Leslie Ward (1851-1922). Watercolour, published in Vanity Fair 20 February 1902. © National Portrait Gallery, London

Benjamin Stone (1838-1914), politician and photographer by Sir Leslie Ward (1851-1922). Watercolour, published in Vanity Fair 20 February 1902. © National Portrait Gallery, London

Simon Taylor, Head of Learning, Ikon Gallery

Life Still: Portraiture and End of Life Care

Life Still is an ongoing project that presents exciting opportunities to develop the dialogue between Ikon and Birmingham’s John Taylor Hospice. Inspired by the unique history of the Hospice, the former home of influential photographer and politician Sir Benjamin Stone (1838–1914), Life Still takes inspiration from the collection of Stone’s images housed in the Library of Birmingham’s photographic archive. Simon explained how people receiving long-term palliative care, their families and hospice staff have worked with acclaimed artist Stuart Whipps, to create photographs that reflect their lives, their experiences and their surroundings. Themes of isolation, separation and transition have been explored and led by the people the Hospice helps. Through consultation the residents have used traditional and contemporary methods to explore the creative process.


Simon Taylor’s powerpoint





Morning discussion session. l-r Toby Watley; Dr Sadiah Qureshi; Ruth Clarke; Anton Want; Simon Taylor; Shahmima Akhtar.

Morning discussion session. l-r Toby Watley (Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery); Dr Sadiah Qureshi (University of Birmingham); Ruth Clarke (National Portrait Gallery); Anton Want (Photographer); Simon Taylor (Ikon Gallery); and Shahmima Akhtar (University of Birmingham).