VERSIONS OF NADAV KANDER

~ Posted by Simon Willis, August 20th 2012

Today we published online "Versions of Stoppard", Victoria Glendinning's profile of the playwright Tom Stoppard, whose adaptation of Ford Madox Ford's "Parade's End" begins this Friday on BBC2. In June we sent the photographer Nadav Kander to shoot Stoppard at a studio in south-west London, and the results capture the calm formality and small-c conservatism that Glendinning observed when she went for lunch at Stoppard's flat in Chelsea. She also noted the "quiet colours" on the walls of his living room. Kander's pictures project the same muted tone, with their greys and yellows.

If you want to see more of Kander's work, head to the National Portrait Gallery in London, where two series of his portraits are currently being shown as part of "Aiming High", about the London Olympics. As you walk into the foyer, you'll see on the far wall four dark portraits by Kander. They were shot before the Games, when the subjects were up-and-coming Olympic hopefuls. One of them, Jade Jones, has since well and truly arrived: she won a gold medal in taekwondo. Each portrait is a picture of concentration and intensity, a calm before the storm of competition.

In another room is a very different set of photographs, a series of life-size cut-outs. They are all of people who carried the Olympic torch on its journey around the British Isles, from the young, like Abtisam Mohamed (b. 1980), to the old, like Diana Gould (b. 1912). Kander has mounted each portrait in relief on the wall slightly above head height, and the result is that they seem to move and float in the room, a company of real personalities.

Another Intelligent Life photographer, Jillian Edelstein, was also commissioned to make work for "Aiming High". For this magazine, she's photographed Ralph Fiennes, a nun going to art school and Philip Pullman. For the National Portrait Gallery, she's shot people who were key to the organisation of London 2012. While Kander's series have a uniformity of style, Edelstein has put each of her subjects in a totally different setting. Anish Kapoor stands against a rich waxy-red background, the same colour as his Orbit, the controversial tangle of steel outside the main stadium. Cecil Balmond, who worked with Kapoor on the design of the Orbit, is framed by a kaleidoscopic triangle of glass. Robert Hillier stands in front of a tree in blossom, appropriately enough: he supplied 4,000 trees and shrubs for the Olympic park. If you want to see some superb photography, and aren't completely Olympic'd out, you can see both Kander's and Edelstein's work free until September 23rd.

Simon Willis is apps editor of Intelligent Life. His recent posts for the Editors' Blog include The Woody Allen test and London immortalised