We took a 360˚ portrait of seventeen top YouTube creators in the National Portrait Gallery. Here’s why.

Capturing the most influential digital natives — through a digitally native photography format

How do you gauge influence? One standard measure is the portrait. The portrait captures those in society deemed important, be that through wealth, power, or cultural impact. The National Portrait Gallery serves as a Who’s Who of British social history, with broader trends visible through time as the influence of monarchy wanes, replaced by politicians, artists, social reformers and David Beckham. What better way to sum up eighties Britain than placing “resolute” Thatcher right next to Arthur Scargill?

Behind the scenes at the shoot: Jim (centre left) shoots (left to right) Suli Breaks, Marcus Butler and Tanya Burr.

YouTube asked us for press and social activation ideas for their #MadeForYou campaign, which celebrates the pioneering work of creators succeeding on YouTube in the UK today. So we turned to portraits. Creators are the influencers of today, especially among certain age groups. We wanted a group portrait to celebrate this. And we wanted to take it in the National Portrait Gallery itself — with renowned portrait photographer Jim Fiscus — in 360˚.

Check it out in full glory on YouTube’s Facebook page.

So then: why here, why Jim, and why 360˚?

  • Enlightenment, meet today: Room 12 of the NPG is a revelation. As you walk chronologically through British history, the Gallery’s rooms profile kings and queens, statesmen, military figures. And then come the artists, musicians, actors, campaigners — you’ve reached the Enlightenment: a time when the profile of cultural leaders within society changed irreversibly. So what better room to place our own collection of pioneers?
  • Telling stories through photos: A huge highlight from this project was working with Jim Fiscus. Jim’s work tells stories; his continued work with entertainment brands like CBS, Channel 4, HBO and ITV is testament to his ability to bring personality and narrative through a still image.
  • 360˚, the photo format for our times: Most photos today — a frozen moment in rectangular or square shape — deviate little from the format Louis Daguerre invented. 360˚ breaks these boundaries. Interactive, unprintable, native to the web and optimised for mobile through gyrometer integration; 17 creators explorable individually, in a set-up that puts the audience right in the middle of things. O brave new world. Pro-tip: open the image in the Street View app and throw your phone into a Cardboard to step into the scene.

Thanks to the wonderful Burnham Niker and Stills Productions for making this all possible.