Polly Borland

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Polly Borland
Born 1959 (age 55–56)
Melbourne, Australia
Nationality Australian
Occupation Photographer
Years active c. 1980 - present
Spouse(s) John Hillcoat

Polly Borland (born 1959) is an Australian photographer now living in England. She is known both for her portraits of famous Australians[1] and for several series of stylized portraits.[2]


Borland was born in Melbourne where her father gave her a camera with Nikkor lenses when she was 16.[3] While at art school, she discovered the American photographer Diane Arbus, the press photographer Weegee and the photographer Larry Clark, all of whom influenced her development.[2] On leaving art school, she became a portrait photographer, contributing to the Australian edition of Vogue. In 1989, she moved to the United Kingdom where she has specialized in stylized portraits. Her work has been featured in newspapers and journals including the Daily Telegraph and The New Yorker.[4]

She has also published a number of books on her work and exhibitions. In 2001, her first series The Babies examined the way men can enjoy dressing up as infants.[2] Bunny (2008) is a collection of photographs about an enormous English actress she calls Gwen, in fact the actress Gwendoline Christie. Gwen is either photographed in the nude or in bunny-like costumes.[5] Smudge (2011) features weird depictions of three of her male friends she uses as models: musician Nick Cave, photographer Mark Vessey and fashion designer Sherald Lambden. All three appear half naked, faces obscured, wearing body stockings, tights, strange wigs and other fanciful objects of clothing.[6] In connection with a February 2013 exhibition of her work as a component of "We Used to Talk About Love" at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the 27-minute documentary Polly Borland - Polymorphous presents her work and creativity, supported by interviews with Borland and her friends.[7]

Borland was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of The Royal Photographic Society in 2002. These are awarded to distinguished persons having, from their position or attainments, an intimate connection with the science or fine art of photography or the application thereof.

Polly Borland and her husband, director John Hillcoat, live in Brighton, England.[7]


Borland's portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, taken in connection with her golden jubilee in 2002, is unusual for its brightness and lack of clear detail. It was exhibited at London's National Portrait Gallery and at Windsor Castle.[8]



  • 1999: one of six Australian photographers exhibited in "Glossy: Faces Magazines Now" at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra[4]
  • 2008: Bunny, Murray White Room, Melbourne; featuring Gwendoline Christie
  • 2011: Smudge, Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York City
  • 2012: Everything I want to be when I grow up, Murray White Room, Melbourne

Polly Borland's work has also been exhibited at the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney; the Auckland Triennial, Auckland; the East Bohemian Gallery, Pardubice; the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh; and the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane.[9]


  1. ^ "Polly Borland b. 1959 Melbourne, Vic.", Design & Art Australian Online. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Rob Sharp, "Flights of fancy dress: Polly Borland's portraits marry the infantile and the fetishistic", The Independent, 17 March 2011. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  3. ^ Steel, Andy (6 September 2009). The World's Top Photographer's Workshops: Celebrity & Performance. MBI Publishing Company. pp. 13–. ISBN 978-0-7603-3767-7. Retrieved 16 March 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "Polly Borland", Cranekalman Brighton. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  5. ^ Jacob Resneck, "Polly Borland: Bunny Nose", Cool Hunting, 20 October 2009. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  6. ^ "Polly Borland - Smudge", Trebuchet. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  7. ^ a b "Artscape: Polly Borland - Polymorphous", ABC Television, 11 February 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  8. ^ Magda Keaney, "Golden Jubilee", Portrait6, December 2002. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  9. ^ "Polly Borland 1959, AU", ArtFacts.net. Retrieved 28 February 2013.

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