The big picture: London hosts its largest ever photography fair
Over the weekend, Photo London filled the sprawling neoclassical courtyards and halls of Somerset House to the brim, for the second year running. Featuring world-class work from 85 galleries and in excess of 480 artists, this year’s showcase was the largest of its kind ever to grace the capital.
The fair offered up a diverse range of international photography, with highlights including Ellen von Unwerth’s iconic David Bowie and Kate Moss at Camera Work Gallery, and Adriana Lestido’s Imprisoned Women series at Buenos Aires’ Rolf Art gallery.
As well as highly popular displays from larger galleries (such as Aperture Foundation, Beetles+Huxley and Michael Hoppen), the fair was far from a big-name boast-fest, thanks to a healthy proportion of lesser-known, yet equally interesting challengers. We were particularly impressed by the vivid floral images of Yoshinori Mizutani’s ’Sakura’ series, as presented by Antwerp’s IBASHO gallery, a space we’ve have had our eye on since this time last year.
The global nature of the participating galleries and their artists also impressed – from Sydney’s Michael Reid gallery (which presented the beautiful portraits of Indigenous artist Christian Thompson), to Dewi Lewis Publishing, which looked to the streets of the Netherlands and Hans Eijkelboom for their enticing photo-book offering. Wherever the work was set, it burst from the walls of the often contrasting, ever-so-traditional backdrop of Somerset House.
Despite the sheer breadth and scale of the occasion, Photo London wasn’t tiresome or overwhelming (as these fairs often can be) thanks to a series of well-chosen talks and events held at regular intervals throughout the weekend, including key speeches from artistic authority Edmund de Waal and satirical mastermind Martin Parr.
The fair’s success cements London as a place where the phrase ’photo-opportunity’ takes on a whole new meaning. What with the hefty ’Performing for the Camera’ exhibition across the river at Tate Modern, and the wonderful Paul Strand retrospective at the V&A that runs until 3 July, London is a hive of photographic fervour of late. Even the ex-mayor of London approves of his beloved city’s moment in the photographic spot-light. ‘At a time when so many of us are using our smartphones to capture images of the people and sights around us, we shouldn’t forget photography’s significance as a long-lasting art form,’ Boris Johnson stated. ’There is an incredibly rich variety of photography, both historical and contemporary and it is wonderful to see London at the fore of international photo fairs.’