The big picture: London hosts its largest ever photography fair

Photo London kicked off over the weekend
Pictured left: Call to Faith no.2, by Carmen Mitrotta, 2013. Zürich Right: Christy with Mouse, by Patrick Demarchelier, 1999.
(Image credit: Courtesy the artist, Bildhalle, Courtesy the artist and CAMERA WORK, Berlin)

Photo London kicked off over the weekend, with an exciting programme of exhibitions, talks, lectures, installations and screenings, as well, of course, as a whole host of photographs on display.

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.'

Camera Work installation at the opening of Photo London

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. Pictured: Camera Work installation at the opening of Photo London.

(Image credit: Photography: Jeff Spicer / Getty Images for Photo London)

David Bowie And Kate Moss By Ellen Von Unwerth

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.

(Image credit: Courtesy the artist and Camera Work, Berlin)

Rolf Art gallery

Particularly haunting was Adriana Lestido’s Imprisoned Women series at Buenos Aires’ Rolf Art gallery.

(Image credit: Courtesy the artist and Rolf Art, Buenos Aires)

Two girls on street

END. Twins, by Eamonn Doyle, 2016, London

(Image credit: Courtesy the artist and Michael Hoppen Gallery)

The vivid floral images of Yoshinori Mizutani's 'Sakura' series

We were particularly impressed by the vivid floral images of Yoshinori Mizutani’s ’Sakura’ series, as presented by Antwerp’s IBASHO gallery. Pictured: Untitled, by Yoshinori Mizutani, 2015.

(Image credit: Courtesy IBASHO)

The Pavillion in the Edmond J Safra Fountain Court of Somerset House

A display of Wolfgang Tillmans’ entire series of ’Anti Brexit campaign’ posters across the side of the Pavillion in the Edmond J Safra Fountain Court of Somerset House

(Image credit: Press)

London-based art duo Walter & Zoniel

London-based art duo Walter & Zoniel at the opening of Photo London 2016.

(Image credit: Photography: Jeff Spicer / Getty Images for Photo London)

INFORMATION

Photo London ran from 19–22 May. For more information, visit the Photo London website (opens in new tab)

Elly Parsons is the Digital Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees Wallpaper.com and its social platforms. She has been with the brand since 2015 in various roles, spending time as digital writer – specialising in art, technology and contemporary culture – and as deputy digital editor. She was shortlisted for a PPA Award in 2017, has written extensively for many publications, and has contributed to three books. She is a guest lecturer in digital journalism at Goldsmiths University, London, where she also holds a masters degree in creative writing. Now, her main areas of expertise include content strategy, audience engagement, and social media.