British photographic history

Information and discussion on all aspects of British photographic history

Job: Associate Curator, Photographs (Content and Interpretation)

The post of Associate Curator, Photographs (Content and Interpretation) offers an exciting opportunity to become a key member of the photography team at the National Portrait Gallery. This is a new position reporting to the Head of Photographs and in consultation with him/her, the post holder will have an instrumental role in developing content, assuming responsibility for photographic displays and facilitating the inclusion of photographs in the Gallery’s national programme and other Gallery initiatives. The post will deputise for the Head of Photographs when requested. The post holder will be expected to help generate ideas for the interpretation and presentation of the collection, develop drafts of interpretive text for displays and website information, and curate temporary displays within the galleries as requested. They will also play a significant role in the day to day management of the Gallery’s annual Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize, and work closely on a programme to re-develop the collection displays as part of a major capital project.

See more here:

Responsible to: Head of Photographs Collection

Main duties:

  • Manage the day to day curation of the annual photographic portrait prize working closely with the Gallery’s collections and publications team to deliver all outputs to schedule.
  • Working with the Head of Photographs, develop and execute a strategic plan for photographic displays as part of the ‘Inspiring People’ project. Participate in gallery interpretation, and plan and develop accompanying in gallery and digital information where needed.
  • Support scheduled exhibitions, co-curate exhibitions and research and develop exhibition ideas for presentation as directed by the Head of Photographs.
  • Manage the day to day running of photography patrons group, working closely with the Development Team.
  • Play a substantive role in conceptualising and developing temporary displays for the photographs section and manage production across the team, ensuring interpretative texts and other deliverables arrive on time and at a high standard, proofing texts as necessary and help with day to day upkeep and installation of displays.
  • Curate temporary displays as required, generating ideas, selecting objects, writing display texts, and liaising with other departments under the guidance of the Head of Photographs.
  • Prepare and deliver regular gallery talks on displays, exhibitions, and aspects of the collection for the public programme and support other Gallery departments (eg VSA) in their contributions to the public programme.
  • Develop a network of artists, gallerists, patrons, scholars and other specialists as they pertain to NPG initiatives. Attend Frieze, Photo London, and other trade fairs as appropriate.  Working in concert with the Head of Photographs, represent the Gallery at openings and other photography-related events in London, and elsewhere.
  • Co-ordinate the installation of lens-based media (film/video/electronic media), working directly with artists and technicians as needed.
  • Contribute to the Gallery’s publications programme, under the guidance of the Head of Photographs, generating draft texts for collections works as required and generating ideas for future publications. Contribute, as the occasion arises, to the Gallery’s research programmes, where opportunity and funding allows.
  • Create and facilitate web content under the guidance of the Head of Photographs and other senior staff.
  • In conjunction with other members of the photographs team, answer public, statutory and scholarly enquiries regarding photographic portraiture consulting with other curators as necessary.
  • Contribute to the smooth running of the Gallery by sitting on various cross-gallery committees as directed by Curatorial Director/ Head of Photographs.
  • Support National Programme initiatives and work with the Gallery’s regional partners by assisting in the selection of photographic works, undertaking research, and/or helping to draft text as required for approval by curator colleagues and liaising with the National Programmes Manager.
  • Undertake line management of the Assistant Curator, Photographs (Content and Interpretation) and supervise interns or volunteers as requested by Head of Photographs.

This is not, however, an exhaustive list of duties and the Gallery’s management may, at any time, allocate other tasks which are of a similar nature or level.

Person Specification


  • A Postgraduate degree in art history/history of photography or related field, with a specialisation in photography and/or new media, or an equivalent combination of qualification and experience.
  • Ph.D. in art history / history or equivalent expertise of art is desirable.
  • At least three year’s relevant work experience within a museum or gallery environment working on displays or exhibitions.
  • An understanding and engagement with interpretation practices and a willingness to work directly with staff across the Gallery to generate and deliver changes to interpretation.
  • Experience of and enthusiasm for giving gallery talks and presentations to the public and among peers and writing text for a general public audience.
  • Experience of managing junior staff.
  • The ability to speak with authority about lens-based media, as well as trends and key figures in the history of photography as they pertain to NPG collections from the 19th century to the present.
  • A strong interest and excellent knowledge of British art, history and portraiture in the given period.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills, the ability to copy edit text to a high standard of accuracy, write up research and edit existing texts producing clear and engaging copy for a public audience.
  • A commitment to undertake academic research in a relevant field and evidence of research outputs.
  • An interest in and knowledge of a variety of different types of museum interpretation and commentary including in gallery texts, web microsites, blogs, digital in gallery texts, social media etc.
  • Training or interest in new media (film, video, electronic media).
  • Well-developed interpersonal skills, the ability to support the Head of Photographs and work on their own initiative, co-ordinating and liaising with other curatorial staff, and staff across the Gallery.
  • Exemplary research skills using published and primary art historical sources and familiarity with online research databases on history, biography and art.
  • Excellent organisational, research and planning skills, coupled with the ability to work calmly under pressure, meet tight deadlines and retain excellent attention to detail.
  • Good computer literacy with databases, a variety of IT packages (Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc.) and the ability to generate image spreadsheets from collections databases.
  • A good eye for design and an understanding of the issues in designing displays and hanging works of art.


  • A demonstrable interest and commitment to the work of the National Portrait Gallery and an awareness of the demands and responsibilities of a National Museum collection.
  • A genuine and demonstrable interest in the practice of interpretation and audience development within museums.
  • Ability to research and develop the biography of the sitters and artists providing insight into photographic compositions and their history and significance.
  • Willingness to stay up to date with contemporary developments in photography and new media and desire to explore future trends.
  • The post may require occasional evening and weekend work as agreed.

Period of Appointment

This is a permanent post.


Your contracted hours of work will be 40 hours (5 days) per week, from Monday to Friday, including a lunch break of one hour a day.


The salary for this post will be £27,849 per annum.

Annual Leave

Your annual leave allowance is 25 days per annum, rising to 29 days at the start of the annual leave year following completion of five years’ service, and up to 33 days after 10 years service.

Place of Work

Most of the work is based in the Gallery at St Martin’s Place, but all staff are required to work at other locations if necessary.


The Gallery believes in the employment and advancement of people solely on their ability to do the job required.  When recruiting people, we will therefore disregard their gender, marital status, race, age, colour, nationality, ethnic origin, religion and sexual orientation.  There will be no unfair discrimination on the basis of disability.  If you would like to submit your application in a different format we are happy to allow this.  Please contact us (telephone: 020 7306 0055 email: so that we may discuss suitable alternatives.


Pension benefits are provided under the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme (PCSPS).

Probation and Trial Period

All appointments are subject to satisfactory employment and character references, security clearance and eligibility to work in the UK. There is a probationary period of 1 year for all permanent posts. The probationary period for this post is 12 months.

Data Protection Act

Information provided by you as part of your application will be used in the recruitment process.  Any data about you will be held securely with access restricted to those involved in dealing with your application in the recruitment process.  Once this process is completed the data relating to unsuccessful applicants will be stored for a maximum of 6 months and then destroyed.  If you are the successful candidate, your application form will be retained and form the basis of your personnel record.  Information provided by you on the Equal Opportunities Monitoring Form will be used to monitor the National Portrait Gallery’s equal opportunities policy and practices.  By signing and submitting your completed application form you are giving your consent to your data being stored and processed (if you submit your application by e-mail and the application form is un-signed we will assume that consent by you is given) for the purpose of the recruitment process, equal opportunities monitoring and your personnel record if you are the successful candidate.

Season Tickets

Interest free loans are available for the purchase of a season ticket for travel to work.

Please return your completed application form to:

Personnel at:

Or by post

Caroline Speed
Head of Personnel
National Portrait Gallery
2 St Martin’s Place

By 9am on Wednesday 20 January 2016.

We are expecting to hold interviews on Friday 29 January, 2016. Please indicate on your form if you are unavailable on this date. Please indicate on the form if you will not be available on any particular days during this week.  

If you are delivering your application by hand, please take it to the reception desk at 39-45 Orange Street.

To ensure the best possible use of our limited resources we are unable to respond to every application.  If you have not had a response to your application by 12 February, 2016, please assume that you have been unsuccessful on this occasion.

We would like to thank you for your time and effort in returning your application.

Views: 211

Add a Comment

You need to be a member of British photographic history to add comments!

Join British photographic history

© 2020   Created by Michael Pritchard.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service