One of the things I’ve always admired about Kate Middleton is her passion for photography. While so many Royals seem to have few personal interests, it’s a well-known fact that the Princess of Wales is a keen amateur photographer. Her passion for the arts makes her instantly more relatable than the rest of the Royal Family (excluding Harry and Meghan) and yet, royal photographer John Swannell has accused her of taking an opportunity away from "young English photographers".
Kate Middleton broke an age-old tradition that dictated the royal photographer should take all official portraits of her children. Instead, to mark special occasions, Kate posts photos she takes herself of Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis showing how important family is to her. These portraits, if anything, are more personal and more meaningful than any portrait an official photographer would take – and anyway, who's to criticize a mum for taking photos of her own children?
In an article published in the Daily Mail, Swannell accuses the Princess of Wales of dashing the hopes and dreams of young, aspiring photographers who won’t get their big break by photographing royalty. He claims that such an opportunity elevated his career and that now "someone like me just won’t have the chance."
I can’t help but feel irritated by the entire article. Not only are Mr Swannell's sentiments completely delusional, but who on earth does he think he is to dictate who should be taking someone's portrait? If he thinks the only way someone can rise to success in the photographic world is by becoming a royal photographer he is clearly very misinformed.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I would much rather see photos taken by someone who has genuine love and connection for their subjects than someone who is paid an obscene amount of money to do so. For photographers it’s a job, and for Kate Middleton it’s her passion and a way of documenting family life.
The way he has worded his sentiment, "Those chances should be given to young English photographers," is also troubling. Why should the right of being a royal photographer be reserved for English photographers – the UK is made up of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales in addition to England. Surely people from Commonwealth countries such as Australia and New Zealand have as much right to photograph the Royal Family as an English photographer, and I can’t help but think this statement is loaded with unnecessary patriarchy.
Last time I checked, photography wasn’t about race or nationality but about creating powerful and engaging images. A Jamaican photographer is just as capable as an English one – why should they not have the opportunity open to them, too?
Portrait of Princess Charlotte by her mother the Princess of Wales
Portrait of Prince George, taken by his mother to mark his eighth birthday
He also labels Kate as "not a great photographer", which isn’t only insulting to the Princess (who actually takes some very nice photos) but to the Royal Family as a whole who have allowed it to happen. He might have a photography career full of accolades, but that doesn’t make his opinions gospel.
Call me a millennial but, as far as I’m concerned, John Swannell is stuck in the past. The opportunities Kate Middleton has presented to young photographers far exceed the opportunities she's taken away. In 2002 she launched the photography project Hold Still, inviting photographers to document their experiences of the pandemic. A year later, 100 portraits were chosen to be published in Hold Still: A Portrait of Our Nation in 2020 – a book dedicated to photos of the pandemic.
I’m not particularly pro-monarchy (I'm not particularly anti-monarchy, either) but I can recognize that having someone in the Royal Family with a genuine passion for photography is a good thing. Photography shouldn’t be reserved for those who believe they have the correct qualifications but rather seen as a creative outlet open to anyone who has a love of it.