Weighed against the try-hard ambiguities of conceptual art, photography is reassuringly tangible – there are still elements appreciated by a cultured eye, but the spectacle is for its own sake, independent of baffling, barely there subtexts.

This exhibition beautifully captures the raw power of a picture, the best portraits revealing something of their subjects in one poignant frame, presenting them in a disposition or location that is somehow telling.

Katherine shows a teenage girl waiting for the bus, Vicky Pollard made flesh.

In Georgians a young couple pose awkwardly in their tiny Tbilisi flat, trying to make a go of it, while in Wall St Subway 22 commuters squash on to a packed train, completely ignoring each other.


» National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Pl, WC2H 0HE. Until Feb 14. Free