Thursday, 15 April 2010

People of Today at the NPG: Sukey Parnell

A picture of Dame Joan Bakewell by Sukey Parnell has just been bought by the National Portrait Gallery for the national archive. The portrait was originally commissioned by Saga magazine and was featured on the front cover in March 2009. The print is currently on exhibition in the People of Today Gallery on the ground floor, alongside Sukey's other recent acquisition to the collection, a portrait of comedian Bill Bailey, which was Photograph of the Month in January 2010. Dame Joan Bakewell is 'delighted' by the news.

Sukey's personal work has been a two-time finalist in the Photographic Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery in 2006 and 2007 with images from her personal project on female midlife, Women of an Uncertain Age. The first volume has recently been published on Sukey says that she now wishes to extend the project across different cultures and continents. 'I'm in the process of developing an idea for an ambitious gallery show that looks at old age and "femininity". Watch this space!'

Sukey has recently donated prints to the Guardian photography auction in aid of Samoa and for a second time to the annual gala charity auction in New York in aid of InMotion. 'It's fantastic that my work can be used in this way to raise money and awareness around domestic violence. I was so surprised when they asked me last year. I'd heard of everyone else in their catalogue but me! How great, not only to help, but to see my name alongside Diane Arbus, Martin Parr and Annie Leibovitz! I had no idea when they first got in contact just how big it is! It shows that images can still make a difference.'

Sukey is currently combining writing and practical work in her academic studies. She received a studentship to study for a PhD in September last year to carry forward her research into 'the representation of age and "femininity" in the photographic portrait'. 'I didn't realise when I launched into the PhD just how big or all consuming it would be. Or that I would experience such a huge culture shock! But I think I'm finding my feet now and it's starting to become a very productive arena to engage with and challenge ideas.'

Sukey was a guest speaker in the Ageing Matters series at the Wellcome Collection in February, chaired by Claudia Hammond and has just presented papers on her research and photographic work at Exeter, Boston and Thames Valley Universities. Sukey is just putting the finishing touches to her new website which features two blogs, a news blog and a project blog. 'I really want to open up a conversation about how we see age and beauty. Please get involved.

We need to support each other and our projects. Get people talking about images, how and why the affect us and our lives. Our community is changing and we need to be talking about that. What and how we see our world.' Visit Sukey's blog at

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