Richard Ansett


Arnolfini Marriage, Jan Van Eyke 1434


In 2001, a new scheme, the London Partnership Register, was introduced by the Greater London Authority.

Although not legally recognised, to increase awareness of equality and civil rights, the GLA introduced the scheme that acknowledged and celebrated the relationships of all couples regardless of sexual orientation. This scheme and the exposure of the brave couples that came forward contributed to the huge change in public opinion which eventually led 4 years later to the Civil Partnerships Act in the British Parliament giving couples of the same gender equality in law and finally the ‘Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013’.

In 2001, Richard Ansett was granted access to the first couples registering their relationship in the new scheme, who were asked to participate in a photographic project to document their lives as a historic archive.

“An expression of love and commitment is highly political. Prejudice of homosexual behavior is challenged in a new way here by the un-extraordinary expression of loving relationships illustrated as equal to the heterosexual. It is a subtle change to previously more confrontational messages in the fight for equality; it says ‘we are the same as you; our lives are as complex and as mundane’.” – Richard Ansett 2001

Inspired by the theory by Erwin Panofsky and other art historians that the ‘Arnolfini Portrait’ by Jan Van Eyke was a unique form of marriage contract, the photographs echo the ‘ camera obscura’ composition centring the contemporary couples within their living spaces, similarly posed as if at an improvised wedding altar surrounded by the personal objects offering new clues to how we live to a future audience.

It was originally published in the Observer Magazine,  nominated for the Citibank Prize and exhibited at the Candid Arts Trust; it was then exhibited at the Tate Modern turbine hall in 2002.

The image Chris and David was selected for the influential John Kobal Awards 2002 at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

In 2010 ‘Couple with Delft Tea Set and Queen Victoria’ showed at Art of Photography, San Diego,  recognising the protests against legislation to ban same sex unions in the state of California, which coincided with the 10th anniversary of the original project and inspired a new energy recognising the project as campaigning document.

In 2014 the series won 1st prize at the Moscow International Foto Awards which exhibited in Moscow, flouting the strict anti-gay propaganda laws.

Ron & Roger has since been acquired by the London School of Economics Hall Carpenter Archive and images from the series have published in Turkey & China..

“Inherent In his work is the use of historical allegory and his images make an exceptionally powerful archive of modern lives shaped by 21st century human rights.”Caroline Smith, Art Review/Attitude