To mark the sixtieth anniversary of BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme a video portrait of its five presenters created by Nigel Shafran goes on display at London’s National Portrait Gallery today.
From the NPG press release: ‘Filmed by in and around the Today studio over three days in July 2017, John Humphrys, Sarah Montague, Mishal Husain, Nick Robinson and Justin Webb were questioned by artist Nigel Shafran about their daily lives, domestic habits, shopping lists, conversations and memories. Their recollections are interspersed with scenes of empty studios and office spaces. The audio content of the new portrait, Today Everyday, provides a change of context for the presenters’ voices, which for Today listeners are normally heard discussing world affairs. For this project it was felt an audiovisual portrait might be more fitting than a single photograph and the audio element had particular importance, as the public know the sitters primarily through their voices. The 14-minute film has a simple narrative beginning with the presenters’ early morning. In this opening section Sarah Montague talks about looking at her children sleeping with the light from her mobile phone. It then leads on to breakfast habits, coffee, everyday chores. Technology is discussed in-terms of how it assists tasks; how it can provide connections between people. There are panning shots of the studio, which are dark and quiet apart from screens flashing the never-ending news. The film ends with Humphrys’ touching recollection of his earliest memory, the death of his sister. Nigel Shafran’s photographic work is celebrated for a perception of moments, figures and objects that appear incidental, but can be revealing, significant, and sometimes humorous and often tender. He says: “My thoughts were concerned with how the Today presenters bring world events into our homes, but what is of interest to me are the details of people’s lives, the day-to-day domestic, the personal, non-events often overlooked, which include details such as eating habits, shopping lists, relatives talked to, memories.” BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs programme Today is broadcast Monday to Saturday mornings and is the most popular programme on Radio 4 with over seven and a half million listeners a week. Launched on the BBC Home Service on 28 October 1957, Today, now edited by Sarah Sands, celebrates its sixtieth anniversary this year. Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London, says: “We are delighted to be marking the Today Programme’s sixtieth anniversary by displaying this important portrait showing the five presenters sharing their thoughts with us as they take a break from the studio.” Phillip Prodger, Head of Photographs, National Portrait Gallery, London, says: “The arc of the film moves from seemingly mundane insights into the everyday lives of the presenters, moving to reflections on technology and communication, and concluding with explorations of family and loss. It portrays the announcers sympathetically, providing a window on their personalities, whilst at the same time offering a touchstone to bigger issues about how the Today programme itself, and broadcast media, affects us all. All of which is achieved with humour, insight, and seriousness of purpose.”’
To see the video on the NPG youtube channel click here.
Today Everyday by Nigel Shfran
National Portrait Gallery, London
From 31 October 2017