David Cameron Prime Minister Portrait Sitting

One of the most challenging sittings of my career, I was recently commissioned to capture a portrait of former Prime Minister David Cameron. Serving as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2010 to 2016. Brexit has been a challenging time in British Politics, resulting in David Cameron’s resignation. There is a great deal of tension in the UK about Brexit and very mixed feelings about David Cameron as a modern figure in history. I’m no stranger to photographing political figures and former world leaders, having been commissioned last year to photographer former Prime Minister Sir John Major.

I began by looking at other portrait photographers representations of Mr Cameron. I found myself wanting, not many stood out to me as a portraitist. Was this due to him being a difficult sitter? 

My idea was to capture Mr Cameron as a meditative Statesmen. Brexit has left the UK in very uncertain times, and I wanted to seek inspiration from a portraitist who had recorded political figures during a period of uncertainty. Researching all the greats, I found Sir James Guthrie. Guthrie was a Scottish painter, best known in his own lifetime for his portraiture, although today more generally regarded as a painter of Scottish Realism. Sir James received a commission to paint portraits of all those statesmen who had served in office during the First World War.

(Left)  Henry Herbert Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith , (Right)  William Ferguson Massey . (National Portrait Gallery Scotland) Sir James Guthrie Artist.

(Left) Henry Herbert Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, (Right) William Ferguson Massey. (National Portrait Gallery Scotland) Sir James Guthrie Artist.

Of all his depictions two sketch studies really stood out, the first that of Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith 1852 – 1928, a British statesman and Liberal Party politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916. The second of William Ferguson Massey, 1856 – 1925. Prime Minister of New Zealand. The First World War indeed a very trying period in British History. Guthrie, sketched Asquith and Massey in a very complex and meditative state, almost reflecting on the past and career’s as heads of state.

With this inspiration in mind, I explained my ideas to Mr Cameron and he was pleased with the mood board and style of portraiture I wanted to evoke. The session took place in June of this year and from a short sitting of around 30 minutes,  I directed David to assume a series contemplative and thoughtful expressions. David was indeed an easy sitter, inquisitive and delightful to work with.

David Cameron Portrait Sitting (London Portrait Photographer) © Rory Lewis 2018.

David Cameron Portrait Sitting (London Portrait Photographer) © Rory Lewis 2018.

These portraits are true to history, as a historian and National Portrait Gallery acquired photographer. Capturing depictions which can be used as historical source material is very important. Like Sir James Guthrie, I’m a realist wanted to create a precise and accurate representation keeping every mark every line and capturing my sitter as a neutral object in history.

David Cameron Portrait Sitting (London Portrait Photographer) © Rory Lewis 2018.

David Cameron Portrait Sitting (London Portrait Photographer) © Rory Lewis 2018.