May is when Photo London (usually) happens. In the London photography world it is the biggest month of the year and is is when the photographic galleries wheel out exhibitions of their biggest names, the main auction houses have their photographic sales and UK’s largest – OK, pretty much only – photo fair, Photo London, takes over Somerset House. Amongst 2018’s numerous photo-related satellite events for example the National Gallery and Royal Academy host Tacita Dean, The Photographers Gallery announce the Borse Prize winner and Tate Modern opens ‘Into the Light’.
For this year the event has been postponed until 7 – 11 October 2020, and we are waiting to see whether for 2021 it returns to the usual May weekend.
We can have our usual gripe about the maze-like layout, smallish rooms and the narrow, busy corridors, but in the end most of the big name galleries in the photo world are here strutting their stuff. There is some fabulous and stuff to be seen from these dealers alongside a discovery section where newer galleries exhibit their work. Here is a sample of work from 2018 which gives a good idea of the range on view.
An excellent Photo London special exhibition showcased the legacy of photo pioneer William Henry Fox Talbot, including Hiroshi Sugimoto images inspired by him, next door to an exhibition of ‘Master’ Edward Burtynsky (see our ‘Conversation’ with him from last year here and a review of his latest book ‘Essential Elements’ here). Darron Almond, in conjunction with White Cube exhibits a stunning series of huge images, taken using only the light of the full moon and there is a flash back to the year 1968.
The Photo London curatorial committee have done a fine job of putting it all together and selecting a broad range of galleries from around the world. Over the very few years that the fair has been in existence there has been a distinct improvement year on year in terms of gallery layout, diversity and quality, not to mention the excellent variety of talks and ancillary events.
It would be almost impossible, and probably unnecessary, to talk about individual shows, galleries and artists, so let’s just show you some more of our highlights from 2018, like the embroidered ‘found’ images from Julie Cockburn, available at the Photographers Gallery.
Somebody who brings a completely new look to fashion photography is a rare find. Erik Madigan Heck is a new sensation given a whole room at Christopher Gueye.
Old hand Tim Walker also features – you may recall his big show here in the same rooms a little while ago! See our review Tim Walker at Somerset House.
Find plenty of feet in an image and its likely you’ve stumbled across another master of fashion photography, Guy Bourdin.
Yet another master of fashion is William Klein. Take a look at the great selection of images at Howard Greenberg.
Michale Floman has a stunning show of his own courtesy of the new Duran Mashaal Gallery, consisting of truly inventive camera-less work in both bright colours and black and white, sometimes creased and textured.
Want an iconic portrait for the wall? You could do a lot worse than a great image of Michael Basqiat by Richard Corman. Alternatively how about a grumpy Winston Churchill by Youssef Karsh?
Joel Meyerowitz was one of the great early innovators in colour photography. His later Cape Cod coastal scenes are equally good.
A new name to us was Karine Laval at Crane Kalman. Invetively using glass and mirrors (no smoke!) natural shots look remarkably like they’ve been heavily photoshopped, but somehow all the better for the absence of computer manipulation.
Playing with the genre of fashion and portrait photography – and gender based imagery is the excellent Anja Niemi. At The Little Black gallery stand she takes over a whole room for an impressive display.
Looking for something more abstract? Petra Cortright makes you look very hard indeed at what is going on – at the Danziger Gallery. Meanwhile over at the Robert Morat Galerie cleverly plays with modernist ideas.
In the Discovery section Kenji Toma shows breathtaking technical ability with his beautifully textural flower photographs, cleverly taken to appear like immaculate drawings. Very Japanese.
No technical ability or amazing equipment? Hideo Anze gives us all hope with some brilliantly inventive iPhone images. Buy them individually or in packs of 3, 5 or 9 !
There are of course plenty of classic old ‘masters’. Ansel Adams’ masterful Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico is one. Famously taken without any pre-planning, quickly stopping his car, setting up and snapping to create one of his most iconic works.
Lets finish on a young master. Tania Franco Klein was this years winner of the Artproof Schliemann Award, for a collection of clever, stylish and colourful works. This portrait – via a toaster reflection – is worthy of a place in any collection. Brilliant!
Photo London is at Somerset House, The Strand London until 20 May 2018
For more information visit https://photolondon.org