London is the most Instagrammed city in the world, but this week photography has hit the capital like never before. Over the next four days some 70 galleries have taken up residence under Somerset House’s neoclassical roof, bringing together a mix of vintage and contemporary prints for the largest photography fair ever held in London.
London’s photography scene has always been a force, but lately it’s fallen into contemporary art’s shadow. Above all, Photo London is a celebration of the city as creative capital and world centre for photography, and in the same way Frieze whets our appetites for art, Photo London aspires to do the same for photography, looking set to join the ranks of the art fair on the international arts and culture circuit.
Even if it’s still dwarfed by its French counterpart, Photo London is overwhelming. Much on display looks to London photographers, and of the participating galleries nearly 30 are from the UK. Add four commissioned exhibitions, such as the V&A’s Beneath the Surface, the Aperture lounge and satellite spaces for art publishers like Phaidon and HATJE CANTZ to the already dizzying amount on show and you can start to understand why it was two hours before I came careening out with square eyes. Here, I’ve rounded up some of the best things I saw.
1. A Conversation at the Edge of an Object, The Royal College of Art
The prestigious London art institution has put together a strong range of works for a group exhibition based around the photograph as art, document and conversation.
2. Ruth van Beek, The Ravestijn Gallery
Working with found photographs and watercolour, Dutch-born van Beek’s beautiful collages really stood out from the hundreds of images on display.
3. Mike Seaborne, Bernard Quaritch Ltd.
The urban landscape photographer’s poetic images of down-at-heel London shop fronts are documents of some of the more familiar, now gentrified parts of the East End like Redchurch Street.
4. Adam Bartos, Robert Morat Galerie
Lush, saturated photographs of the kitsch curiosities from New Yorker Adam Bartos’ Yard Sale series are are stand-outs at German gallery Robert Morat.
5. Ishiuchi Miyako and Eamonn Doyle, Michael Hoppen Gallery
London’s Michael Hoppen Gallery had two winners. From her series Frida documenting Frida Kahlo’s wardrobe and belongings, Ishuichi Miyako’s poignant photograph of the prosthetic leg the Mexican artist designed for herself takes centre stage. Equally striking are the photographs of stooped over passers-by from Eamonn Doyle’s series of “Beckettian” figures seen on the streets of Dublin.
6. J.D. ’Okhai Ojeikere, Tiwani Contemporary
Known for his work with elaborate Nigerian hairstyles, Nigerian photographer J.D. Okhai Ojeikere’s hair portraits were best in show at Tiwani Contemporary, a London gallery dedicated to contemporary African art.
7. Nadav Kander, Flowers Gallery
This now iconic image from South African photographer Nadav Kander’s travels down China’s longest river was also in the Barbican’s architecture photography exhibition Constructing Worlds last year.