It had almost reached midday, and the Strand was busy. All the usual commerce of the UK capital thrummed past outside, but the central courtyard of Somerset House was strangely subdued. On the strike of twelve, however – as Photo London opened its gates to the public – that rapidly started to change. The steady trickle became a heavy stream, and soon enough, the place was heaving.
The crowds were symbolic of Photo London’s own immense growth. In only its second year, the event has become the crowning jewel in London’s photographic calendar, attracting a diverse blend of artists, press, public, and collectors, the latter of which many in London once thought it impossible to attract. Effectively London’s Photo Week, it is hard to find a gallery or photographer that isn’t on the scene.
The 80 galleries exhibited include big names from the US and Europe – Magnum, Atlas, Hamiltons, Michael Hoppen, Yossi Milo (the list goes on) – alongside the likes of amana (Tokyo), x-ist (Istanbul) and Rolf Art (Buenos Aires). With 10 publishers, from Taschen to teNeues, and special exhibitors such as LensCulture and Leica also attending, Photo London represents a global scene befitting of its title.
Co-founders Michael Benson and Fariba Farshad are clear that the event is not just a supermarket for photography, but an experience.
There are 33 talks from active photographers, where guests can hear the perspectives of modern greats Nadav Kander, Don McCullin, Martin Parr and Edward Burtynsky (again, the list goes on).
Viewing the photography is an event in its own right, with the individual rooms of Somerset House providing an intimacy that large-scale art fairs can often lack. A vast array of styles are on show, from 19th century photographs, to fine art prints, to masses of both contemporary and documentary photography.
The event also sheds light on impressive emerging photographers in its Discovery section, as well as crediting living legends Don McCullin, Sergei Chilikov and Craigie Horsefield with three dedicated retrospectives.
There are also numerous satellite events throughout the capital, with the Camden Arts Centre, The Photographers Gallery, the Barbican and many others having joined the party. Fox Talbot’s ‘Dawn of Photography’ is displayed at the Science Museum’s Media Space, Martin Parr is showing at both the Guidhall Gallery and Space Studios and the works of Shirley Baker, Massimo Vitali and Edgar Martins are showing at their respective galleries. In short, London is showcasing photography in its entirety and the rest of the world has gathered.
Running from the 19-22 May, anyone with even a slight interest in photography (and the stamina to get round the circuit) would be foolish to miss this event. Photo London is the UK’s new photographic hub, and one that looks set to grow from strength to strength. Long may it continue.