Relatively speaking, they’re iconic portraits of the past

thisisoxfordshire: Drew Gardner Drew Gardner

WHAT do Clive of India, Oliver Cromwell, Napoleon, Emmeline Pankhurst and Charles Dickens have in common?

The answer is quite unexpected - they have had iconic pictures of themselves recreated using their own distant descendants.

The dazzling portraits are all due to debut, along with some other currently secret additions, at Oxford’s first international photography festival.

London-based artist Drew Gardner will be bringing the show to Studio 45, in Herschel Crescent, as part of Photography Oxford, which runs from September 14 to October 5 in venues across the city.

He said: “It was partly driven by an anti-celebrity culture. People these days are famous for doing nothing at all, but we have people who are living embodiments of the people they are related to and who are doing really important things.”

Mr Gardner undertook nine years of painstaking reasearch to trackdown each descendant and then photographed them in groups – meaning in some cases he was in the surreal position of seemingly having Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington in the same room.

“It was like a meeting of history in front of your eyes.”

And he said that some of his subjects, such as Helen Pankhurst - the great grandaughter of women’s rights activist Emmeline Pankhurst – bore striking resemblances in looks and character to their relatives.

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He said: “It was common for most of them to loath comparing themselves directly to their relatives, but then I would start talking to them about their interests and passions and certain similarities would emerge.

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“That is what really excites me. Helen is not only still active in womens’ rights movements, but she also has an interest in Pan-Africanism, like Emmeline’s sister Sylvia.

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“I hope the exhibition encourages people to think about where they come from, and examine if they have anyone in their past who has achieved something, and consider their roots.“ Photography Oxford, which the exhibition is part of, will see a wealth of free exhibitions open up around the city.

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The Oxford Mail’s sister paper The Oxford Times is the official media partner of the event, which will bring some 30 leading photographers from around the globe to the city.

Festival director Robin Laurance said: “In Drew Gardner we have found a photographer with a passion for history.

“His journey of discovery reads like a page-turner detective story and Photography Oxford is thrilled to be hosting the debut exhibition of the pictures that resulted from his quest.”

  • For more information, visit photographyoxford.co.uk

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