In the frame:
Photo London 2016
© Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Photo London
Last week Photo London came to the UK’s capital city for a second year, celebrating the best of photography, and one man’s work in particular. CPN Editor David Corfield reports...
Don McCullin, Photo London’s Master of Photography for 2016, has a few words to say about his profession. “You never really own photography. It owns you. I recently returned from Syria, where I had gone to photograph the ruined Temple of Bel in Palmyra. I got there and saw that the door was ajar. ‘You lucky devil’ I thought, as I tried to push it open. But it wouldn’t budge. Looking around, I noticed a hole in the wall and just as I was about to try my luck at climbing inside a Russian soldier appeared out of nowhere and chased me off.”
Don rued his misfortune during his talk at Photo London this year with Tate Modern’s Simon Baker, and wrote off the effort of getting there, despite convincing The Times it was important he went. Talking to CPN later he said: “All my life I’ve had this relationship with photography. If you don’t get the picture, it’s OK. It’s a mistress and like all beguiling women, it holds all the aces. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t. I’ve learned to accept that.”
Bigger and better
This year’s event saw 80 galleries from around the world exhibiting work. Galleries from Berlin, Cologne, Helsinki, Lisbon, Zürich, Tehran, Minneapolis, New York, Palm Beach, Santa Monica, Singapore, Tokyo and Sydney showed work alongside the pick of London’s top dealers with an addition of a new pop-up gallery space in the courtyard of Somerset House, the event venue. The mezzanine gallery showed up-and-coming photographers as well as the masters with galleries such as Camera Work, Daniel Blau and Hamilton’s giving an authoritative stamp to proceedings.
Speaking at the event press conference, Photo London co-founder, Michael Benson, commented on the importance of photography in society, claiming it is “one of the world’s most popular pastimes” and “a major art form and for many, an entry point into the art world.”
He continued: “London is the only city in the world where you dare to imagine that you would get this kind of dynamic response to a new cultural venture like Photo London. We have been overwhelmed by the support we have received from the City’s cultural organisations. From national art institutions like the Tate, the National Portrait Gallery and the V&A to emerging artists, young collectors and galleries especially in the creative hubs of the East End and South London, from the best dealers to all of London’s auction houses, and above all London’s brilliant photographers, we have been delighted to find that so many people of all ages share our passion for photography and believe like us that London has the potential to become the world capital of photography.”
Exhibition highlights and compelling talks
As well as McCullin’s exceptional show – put on by Hamilton’s, his long-time gallery partner and featuring some rarely seen colour work from the Vietnam War – Photo London saw the launch of McCullin’s landmark publishing exercise ‘Irreconcilable Truths’ which was recently profiled on CPN here. The limited edition book, which starts shipping to the 1000 lucky customers this month, was on display and drew considerable interest from the specially invited guests.
Other notable exhibitions at the show included Turner Prize-nominated photographer Craigie Horsfield, whose series ‘Twelve’ wowed lovers of portraiture. Curated by the Wilson Centre for Photography (the Wilson being Michael G. Wilson of James Bond film fame), the show featured a wide selection of hugely expressive portraits, printed in large format and capturing attention.
Nick Brandt, an English photographer who photographs exclusively in the African continent, partnered with the Atlas Gallery to exhibit ‘Inherit the Dust’, a series of large-format images with life-size superimposed prints of wild animals in urban and wasteland environments. The gallery showed some of the behind the scenes images of how Brandt works, using film and a medium-format camera and some exceptionally fine printing skills.
This year, a series of talks were the highlight for many visitors, with illustrious photographers and commentators providing informed discussion. Photographers included fashion supremo Nick Knight, portrait and reportage specialist Mary McCartney, advertising and fine art photographer Nadav Kander, as well as legends of photography Martin Parr and, of course, Don McCullin. CPN contributor and former Photography Director of the Telegraph Magazine, Cheryl Newman, curated a lively panel for Photo London entitled ‘Loose Women’ which explored the role of women in photography across fashion, editorial and documentary genres.
A foundation for the future
Speaking on behalf of the LUMA foundation, which supported the public programme for Photo London this year, its founder Maja Hoffman said: “It really makes me very happy to be here. We really believe in getting together different types of thinking and the reason I am here is that we want to make this same multi-disciplinary platform at the Arles festival in France.”
There was certainly a buzz about Photo London this year. Despite the unpredictability of the British weather, one thing was clear: photography as a collectible form is appreciating, with some works fetching upwards of £20,000. For the collectors, this was certainly an event to savour; and for the public too, there was more than enough photo inspiration to whet the appetite on even the dampest of English summers.
About Photo London
Photo London was created to give London an international photography event befitting the city’s status as a global cultural capital. Founded in 2015, it has already established itself as a world-class photography fair and as a catalyst for London’s dynamic photography community. From the capital’s major museums to its auction houses, galleries large and small, right into the burgeoning creative community in the East End and South London, Photo London harnesses the city’s outstanding creative talent and brings the world’s leading photographers, curators, exhibitors and dealers together with the public to celebrate photography, the medium of our time.