I’ve just returned from an exhausting, (but very stimulating!) trip to Photo London 2016 and the various off-site exhibitions running alongside.
With it being just the second year of the fair and not having attended last year, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the venue of Somerset House is a spectacular backdrop for a vast fair of nearly 100 commercial galleries, a selection of curated exhibitions and a programme of talks and panel discussions.
After stepping off the train at Kings Cross into pouring rain, I arrived drenched to the first talk of the fair by Richard Learoyd in conversation with Frish Brandt (President of Fraenkel Gallery, who represent Leayroyd). This turned out to be a great start, with a really open and refreshing talk about his approach and motivations for making work. I also caught a talk by Nadav Kander which traced his work through the years and presented the new Thames Estuary work he was showcasing at Flowers Gallery.
Day 2 saw a trip to The Photographers Gallery, where I was really pleased to discover that the show Double Take: Drawing and Photography was showing (on until 3 July), featuring some amazing work by László Moholy-Nagy, Běla Kolářová, Jiří Thýn and Richard Forster amongst others. It was also a good chance to see the Deutsch Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2016 too – my money is on Trevor Paglen this year!
A quick walk back to Somerset House (with a Louis Theroux celeb-spot to boot!) to catch Katy Grennan in conversation with Phillip Prodger, followed by an honest, funny, and almost confrontational conversation between Mischka Henner and Philip Gefter.
Day 3 began at Beaconsfield Contemporary Art, with a tour of their beautiful, atmospheric gallery space by Marcel Feil, the deputy director of Artistic Affairs at Foam (Amsterdam). Beaconsfield have partnered with Foam to present Foam Talent: shaping the future of contemporary photography, displaying the work of 21 artists under the age of 35. This proved a fascinating and in-depth look at some of the best new photography, and highlights included Justin James Reed, Tom Callemin, Heikki Kaski, Cristian Vium and Manon Wertenbroek.
Across the river at Tate Britain, the exhibition Painting with Light brought together examples of work highlighting the relationship and influence these two mediums (and their respective practitioners) have on each other. The first room in particular had a strong Scottish representation with some beautiful works by Hill and Adamson, and other photography heavyweights such as Julia Margaret Cameron, PH Emerson and Alvin Langdon Coburn completing a memorable show.
I spent the remainder of the day exploring the other galleries and exhibitions at Somerset House: the curated exhibition Twelve by Craigie Horsfield was a welcome haven of calmness featuring a selection of his epic, yet quiet and contemplative portraits. The images were stunning, but it was his writings which I found to be surprisingly beautiful. There was also a great opportunity to learn about the work of Sergey Chilikov through the exhibition Photoprovocations. Chilikov was a contemporary of Boris Mikhailov, and emerged in the USSR in the 1970’s, (incidentally it was his image that was used for the cover of Beirut’s The Gulag Orkestar album!).
Other highlights from the fair included Yossi Milo, (presenting some exquisite work by Alison Rossiter), Bruno V. Roels at Gallery Fifty One, Lucien Hervé and Malike Sidibé at Galerie du jour agnès b. and Rolf Gallery from Buenos Aires, who were exhibiting work by Mariano Zuzunaga, Facundo de Zuviría, Marcos López and Humberto Rivas – overall probably my favourite presentation at the fair.
Day 4 was my last chance to catch “everything else” before I headed back North, so began with a trip to the Barbican, where the Martin Parr-curated exhibition Strange and Familiar was on. I’d read a little about the exhibition beforehand and its premise of ‘Britain as revealed by International Photographers’, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the range, depth and level of the photographers involved. Moving from a room full of Henri Cartier-Bresson images, to a room of Robert Frank, then Paul Strand, Sergio Larrain, Gary Winogrand, Rineke Dijkstra… you get the scale of this show! A name I wasn’t familiar with though was Shinro Ohtake, who’s presentation of hundreds of small-scale pictures was an enjoyable treat.
From the Barbican I visited Tate Modern to see the Performing for the Camera exhibition. Beginning with a strong selection of classics by Charles Ray, Yves Klein and Aaron Siskind, this exhibition ticks all the boxes and includes a wide range of wonderful photographers, yet I found it somehow didn’t quite deliver the overall ‘wow-factor’ I’d anticipated.
Filling half of the Turbine Hall was Offprint London - the independent publishing fair – featuring a vast number of stalls and some amazing photobooks. I was slightly overwhelmed by the selection on offer, but it’s definitely something I’ll head back to next year if I have more time.
I concluded my trip with a panel discussion between Hannah Starkey and Sophy Rickett, chaired by Alison Nordström, which provided an invigorating and inspiring end to the day.
I got on the train back to Edinburgh feeling as though I’d had a quick, sharp shock of both Photography and London. Ready for a breather, but excited about the wonderful possibilities of the medium.
Images (top to bottom, left to right): PhotoLondon 2016 at Somerset House, Jiří Thýn at The Photographers Gallery, Sergey Chilikov, Mariano Zuzunaga, Aaron Siskind, Offprint London, Turbine Hall, Tate Modern.