With a general election looming in the UK, there is lots of attention being given to the mainstream political parties, but pro portrait photographer Tom Oldham is doing what he can to encourage first time voters to get to the polls, and familiarise them with the many faces of British politics.

We are big fans of Tom Oldham here at AP. He’s got a big enough reputation in the entertainment industry that he could probably coast through life earning good money from portrait shoots with celebrities, but he’s a big guy with a big heart and a strong social conscience.

Indeed, we gave him a Hero of Photography award in 2023 for his very worthy project to encourage donations of photography books to schools and colleges.

Here are The Hopefuls

Tom’s latest project is called The Hopefuls, and came about after he discovered more than half of first-time voters (56%) do not believe there is a political party that truly represents them and less than a fifth (18%) know who their member of parliament is.

It’s easy to blame younger people for their supposed ignorance and apathy, but this sentiment is echoed across various age demographics, underscoring a pervasive sense of disenfranchisement. Only 28% of first-time voters feel that there is a party that aligns with their views, highlighting a significant gap in political engagement and representation.

So, Tom set up a self-funded project to capture portraits of candidates from across the whole political spectrum. These go from some relatively well-known names, such as anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller and general election stalwart Arthur Pendragon, through to a whole host of plucky unknowns.

In addition, he asked every candidate a series of identical questions, to get under the skin of who they are. He’s hoping to combat voter apathy and restore faith in the democratic process by humanising the often faceless and distrusted political landscape, encouraging first time voters to register and get out to vote.

Portraits of democracy

‘It’s clear to see that trust in politics and politicians is at an all time low which is making many disengage entirely,’ Tom explains. ‘Part of the issue is that first time voters don’t think that any of the parties represent them and a lot of that seems to be because they don’t know who their representatives are. I hope this series can showcase the many faces of British politics and encourage first time voters to register to vote and get to the polls.’

Despite some of the less-than-entirely-serious candidates to appear in Tom’s project, the message is serious: we should never take our right to vote in free and fair elections for granted.

Below you will find a selection of Tom’s fab portraits, which capture the many faces of alternative British politics, from the earnest to the eccentric and, frankly, unhinged.

You can see all The Hopefuls here, along with a brief manifesto message (our favourite has to be from Count Binface: ‘My views on immigration are quite simple. I am an alien from another space quadrant. I’m gonna be pretty much pro at it, wouldn’t you say so?’)

The Hopefuls, Bill Blockhead
Bill Blockhead, Independent, Bath.
The Hopefuls, Carissma Griffiths
Carissma Griffiths, Labour Party, Mid Buckinghamshire
The Hopefuls, Count Binface
Count Binface, Richmond & Northallerton
The Hopefuls, David Buckley
David Buckley, Independent, Windsor
The Hopefuls, Fazia Shaheen
Fazia Shaheen, Independent, Chingford and Woodford Green
The Hopefuls, Gina Miller
Gina Miller, Leader, True & Fair Party Epsom & Ewell
The Hopefuls, Ian Pugh
Ian Pugh, Freedom Alliance, Wirrel
James Miller, The Hopefuls
James Miller, Southend Confelicity Party, Southend West and Leigh
Arthur Pendragon, Independent, Salisbury
Lore Lixenberg
Lore Lixenberg, The Voice Party, Stoke Newington and Hackney North
The Hopefuls, Mad Mike Young
Mad Mike Young, Monster Raving Looney Party, Sittingbourne and Sheppey
The Hopefuls, Neil O Neil
Neil O’ Neil, Non-Political Party Stratford-Upon-Avon
The Hopefuls, Peter Cook
Peter Cook, Independent
The Hopefuls, Robin Tilbrook
Robin Tilbrook, English Democrat Party, Brentwood and Ongar
Vikas Aggarwal, The Hopefuls
Vikas Aggarwal, Liberal Democrats, Islington North

Further reading
Complete guide to portrait photography