A Lancashire family travelled to London this week for a VIP viewing of a very special photograph at the National Portrait Gallery.
The McNeil family, mum and dad Annette and Mal and daughters Caitlin and Erin were given a private viewing this afternoon of a portrait of Erin.
The photograph was one of this year’s entries in the prestigious Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize. It was taken by photographer Richard Ansett wduring a very difficult time in Erin's life.
It is one of just 57 works selected for the Taylor Wessing exhibition from over 4,400 entries and shows the Garstang Community Academy pupil in the aftermath of the Manchester Arena bombing.
Ansett was commissioned by the BBC to create work on contemporary mental health issues and photographed young girls affected by the May 2017 Manchester Arena bombing for a series called “After The Attack”.
In all 23 people were killed and 139 wounded after attending an Ariana Grande concert and Erin witnessed the immediate aftermath of the bombing as she left the concert hall.
Erin said: “It’s officially something I can say I’ve done. You can find me in the National Portrait Gallery.”
She acknowledged that she has moved on since the photo, entitled ERIN, 12 was taken in March this year and said: ”I’m much better now. It shows that help can change you massively...I’m much more happy.”
Mum Annette said: “I think the photo is absoloutely beautiful. It’s captured her beautifully and her emotions at that time.”
She continued: "I wasn’t sure how I would feel when I saw it. It was taken in March and she was in a very different place then. It’s a bit of a mix of emotions. It was sad to see your daughter like tha ... I know how far she’s come and the support she has."
Erin struggled from post traumatic stress and it was months before she was able to talk about what she had seen in Manchester. But Annette said thanks to support from CAMHS, the child and adolescent mental health service and the Victim Support service Erin has been helped on her journey to recovery.
*The photo comes from a series entitled After the Attack. Ansett knew the post-traumatic stress of the Manchester bombing meant many of his sitters would be uncomfortable being photographed outside or in large or crowded spaces, so he decided to photograph them within their homes. Erin's medals and trophies signify her achievements and identity beyond that of a victim or survivor.
* The famnily later attended the Taylor Wessing awards ceremony and official launch of the exhibition, which runs from October 18 to January 27.