The Whitechapel Gallery worked with London Underground’s Platform for Art Creative Communities programme to produce photographic self-portraits of London Underground staff. These unique photographs, capturing their ideas and feelings about their daily lives and work on the Underground, will be unveiled at a special opening of Platform Portraits at the Whitechapel Gallery and Aldgate East station.
London Underground staff used the Whitechapel’s Gerhard Richter – Atlas exhibition as their inspiration by responding to his vast work of famous historical and artistic figures, 48 Portraits. They then worked in their own time with the Whitechapel’s Education team and photographer Rose Butler to develop their own portraits using 35mm cameras. The portraits will now be on display on the platforms of Aldgate East Underground station.
The aim of the project and collaboration between the Whitechapel’s Education programme and Platform for Art was for participants to engage with the work of internationally acclaimed German painter Richter and to then develop their own personal responses to it, incorporating their own creative narrative. The images celebrate the diversity of London Underground staff while encouraging passengers to see them as individuals and not just “a uniform”. Staff also benefited from developing photographic skills.
Liz O’Sullivan, Head of Platform for Art, said: “With Whitechapel Gallery being the only gallery directly above an LU station, what an ideal project to take forward. It is Platform for Art’s mission to link underground with over ground, highlighting London as a world class capital of culture.”
Alicia Miller, Head of Education, Whitechapel, said: “Working with staff at Aldgate East station and Platform for Art has been a fascinating process and resulted in some very interesting artwork. We hope to continue this fruitful and creative relationship in the future and demonstrate the personal and professional benefits that working with artists can have.”
Kathy MacTaggart, Duty Station Manager at Aldgate East, who took part in the project, said: “This project was hard work, but it was really important for us as London Underground staff to have this chance to portray our own diversity. Hopefully the project shows us as real people doing an important job.”