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Commonwealth Games 2002

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Friday, 8 June, 2001, 13:45 GMT 14:45 UK
Photos capture British ethos
Hairdressers
A short listed entry in the Beauty category
By the BBC's Jo Episcopo

An exhibition of photographs, aimed at finding a defining image of Britain at the start of the 21st Century, has opened in London.

Over 13,000 people responded to an invitation to the public to submit their defining image of Britain under one of five categories - home, work, play, fame and beauty.

The resulting shortlist of 500 photographs provides an insight into both the Britain of the imagination and the gritty reality of housing estates, poverty and homelessness.

skin conduction
A skin condition inspired another photographer
The category of home was the most popular with pictures ranging from traditional country cottages and pretty gardens to high rise flats and a surprising number of the insides of people's fridges.

The latter subject captured one of the organiser's central aims of showing the changing face of Britain, as tins of Mediterranean olives sat next to cans of British lager and microwave meals.

One of the many surprising things the competition threw up was how modern buildings had replaced more traditional ones like cathedrals and churches as national icons.

The London Eye, an innovative piece of engineering designed like a modern day Ferris wheel that dominates the capital's skyline was the single most photographed image.

Home: Turkey
This Turkey signified contemporary Britain to a photographer in the South East
But the subjects were as much about the private as the public and a powerful reflection of multi-ethnic Britain, with photos of men at prayer in a mosque, or of black, white and Asian families relaxing at home or play.

One single photo from the short listed 500 will be chosen next month as the defining image of contemporary Britain and the photographer will receive 10,000.

The images are on display at The Photographer's Gallery London 8 June to 22 July, at Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool from 26 May to 7 July and at the Stills Gallery, Edinburgh from 19 June to 14 July.

Channel Four will broadcast the judges decision from The Photographers' Gallery on Sunday 1 July at 20:00.

See also:

26 May 01 | Americas
Che Guevara photographer dies
11 May 01 | Arts
Smooth Dickens fetches 40,000
14 Feb 01 | UK
Keeping out of the picture
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