A World in Common

The Portraits of a Community project aims to shine a light on the African diaspora in London and, through studio portrait photographs, celebrate our diverse identities, cultures, and heritage.

Project Overview

 In connection with A World in Common: Contemporary African Photography exhibition at Tate Modern, Tate is working with photographer Ruth Ossai to create a series of studio portraits featuring members of London’s African diaspora communities.

CultureTree is partnering with Tate to select people to participate in this project. Participants will have their portrait taken by Ruth and these photographs will then be displayed at Tate Modern. The project includes 3 in-person sessions at Tate Modern and a celebratory exhibition viewing and dinner. Participants must be available on the following dates (more info below).

Tuesday 13th June 2023

Tuesday 20th June 2023

Saturday 24th June 2023

There will be time built into the project for participants to meet Ruth and Tate staff and to get to know one another before the portraits are taken. It is important that everyone feels comfortable and confident before being photographed.

Ruth Ossai [@ruthossaistudio on Instagram]

Born in Nigeria but now based in Leeds/London, Ruth is a portrait and studio photographer whose work centres narratives of family, community, and Black identity; Ruth has been documenting life across several generations in Nigeria since her mother gave her a camera as a teenager. Ruth’s photographs will be exhibited in A World in Common exhibition.

The Portraits

Ruth often uses striking backdrops and floor mats for her portrait models to pose with. Ruth will create and select her backdrops and props based on her conversations with participants during their initial meetings. Participants will wear their own clothes in the portraits and can choose these as they wish.

Each participant will feature in at least one portrait, some will feature in more than one. All participants will be given one print of a photograph of their choice.

The portraits will be displayed at Tate Modern and possibly published via Tate’s social media platforms. Any further display or publication of the images will be decided by Ruth and the participants during the project. There is a possible opportunity to produce a digital publication of the images with a media partner.

The photographs will not be available for commercial sale by Tate or Ruth.

What participants will receive:

– Payment of £280

– A high-quality printed copy of their chosen photograph

– An invitation to the exhibition private view and dinner, including tickets for family and friends

– 5 complimentary exhibition tickets for A World in Common

– Credit by name in communication material, where applicable.

Time & Commitment

Participants must be available for each of the 3 sessions (dates below). Everyone is invited to attend the celebration event, but attendance is not mandatory. All sessions and the celebration event take place at Tate Modern (London, SE1 9TG).

Session 1 – Tuesday 13th June, 18.00 – 20.00

An opportunity for everyone to get to know one another, hear about the project, discuss studio portraiture, and to get to know Ruth’s work.

Session 2 – Tuesday 20th June, 18.00 – 20.00

An informal gathering where Ruth will share her initial ideas for the portraits. By the end of the session, participants will have discussed and agreed any further publication of the images.

Session 3 – Saturday 24 June, 10.00 – 15.00

Ruth will take everyone’s portraits. *Participants must be free on this date but not the whole day; participants will be invited to sign up for a specific time slot in advance

Celebration Event – Monday 24th July, 18.30 -21.00

For all participants, their friends and family, to celebrate the project, this event will include a meal and a private tour of the exhibition A World in Common.

The publication of the photographs will happen later in the summer so that this project has its own space outside of the main exhibition.

Register to participate

If you would like to participate in this project and are available on the dates specified, send an email to info@culturetree.co.uk with the subject line ‘Portraits of a Community project’. Your email should include your full name, a picture of yourself alone or with your family which shows you celebrating your culture/heritage and a short statement explaining why you would like to participate. Deadline to register: 12pm, Friday 2nd June 2023.

Selection Criteria

On Saturday 3rd June, all entries will be published on our Instagram page @culturetree. Public voting will be open for three days, closing at midnight on Sunday 4th June 2023.
The 10 entries with the most likes will be selected to participate in the project.


What if I can’t make one of the dates?

All participants must be available for the three sessions. For session 3, participants do not need to be available for the whole day; instead, they will select a time slot in advance. All participants are invited and encouraged to attend the celebration event in July but this is not mandatory.

I have caring responsibilities; can I bring children to the sessions?

Yes, participants can bring children they have caring responsibilities for to any of the sessions. They must be supervised at all times.

Do I need any modelling experience?

No. Participants do not need to have done any modelling, or have sat for photographers or artists, before. There is no requirement for anyone to have had their portrait professionally taken.

Do I need to prepare anything before attending the sessions?

No, no preparation is needed before any of the sessions. The only thing you might want to consider is what you will wear for the photograph in session 3.

What clothes should I wear for the photograph?

Participants can wear whatever they would like to. Participants can choose whether to wear something special, if they wish. They are welcome to discuss with Ruth beforehand.

Will there be refreshments?

Yes, light refreshments will be provided for sessions 1 to 3. A substantial meal will be provided at the celebration events.