Photo London 2015 – highlights and discoveries

William Eggleston Rose Gallery Photo London

My forays to Somerset House usually involve a frantic schedule of shows and presentations of the London Fashion Week variety, punctuated by the odd short film screening or drinks reception. That’s all going to change come September, with the LFW move to Soho. But there’s now a new reason to head down Somerset House way and it’s all for pleasure rather than work. Photo London, the new four-day art show specialising in photography opened last Thursday and put on a herculean display of photographic treasures to delight and nourish every palate.

I spent the whole Saturday there and just about managed to get through the entire 70 stands. Offsite though, was a whole programme of happenings at other institutions including the National Portrait Gallery, V&A and Tate Modern – talks, book fairs, signings and exhibitions. Alas, I couldn’t make any of those, but having scoped out the inaugural Photo London, I’ll make extra time for that next year (news just in: next year’s Photo London is from 19-22 May. Diarise now!). For now, a few of my highlights and discoveries…

Photo London really has covered a wide breadth of photography, and there were dozens of works that the most casual of photography fans would be familiar with. I love street photography and portraiture – especially from the mid century greats, William Eggleston (top), Diane Arbus and Bruce Davidson. Timothy Taylor showed a selection of Arbus street portraiture including this gem (below), ‘Two Friends In The Park N.Y.C 1965’…

Diane Arbus Two Friends In The Park N.Y.C 1965 at Photo London

English street photography was another theme I zoned in on, with the Erik Frank gallery showcasing some seminal shots of Middlesbrough in the 1970s from Chris Killip and Graham Smith (below). Then there were the evocative 1960s street photographs by Roger Mayne, shot around Ladbroke Grove and Addison Gardens in West London which felt newly relevant in the current climate of gentrification and social cleansing…

Graham Smith Photo London

The 19th and 20th century vintage prints shown by the Hyman Gallery were a great highlight, in particular the André Kertész portraits (the Hyman Gallery currently has a show of his European work at its Savile Row gallery). I loved this intimate depiction of Mondrian’s Glasses And Pipe…

Mondrian's glasses and pipe by Andre Kertesz at Photo london

There were a couple of new photography discoveries for me, both using unusual photographic techniques to magnificent effect. Garry Fabian Miller’s camera-less process involves manipulating light on photographic paper using coloured glass and cut-paper to create beautiful ethereal painterly effects. The colours are sublime – a little bit Rothko, a little bit Josef Albers.

Garry Fabian Miller Photo London
Garry Fabian Miller at Photo London

Ryo Fujimoto is a Japanese photographer whose mash-up photos also have a dreamy quality. These are achieved by projecting and blurring one photo, then superimposing another photo on top.

Ryo Fujimoto

An observation: I noticed that other than some classic vintage photography from the likes of Horst and William Klein, there was really not much in the way of fashion photography presented. In part this must be because the Ryan McGinleys and Juergen Tellers are repped by art galleries, not photography galleries. But it makes me wonder if there’s future scope for collectable photographers like David Sims and Nick Knight to be shown at Photo London, or even for some enterprising curator to set up an exhibition alongside the event. It surely makes sense while museums and galleries are increasingly positioning photography in the realms of art, and the wider public becomes interested in fashion photography for its artistic merits.

My Saturday ended in the Deadhouse underground cellars of Somerset House, where Rinse FM had curated an accompanying night-time music programme. Bill Bernstein’s images of 1970s New York discos (from his forthcoming book, DISCO*) projected on the Victorian brickwork were the perfect backdrop to the DJs’ suitably disco-centric soundtrack, and ended my Photo London outing on a high.

Photo London The Deadhouse photo projection

(*Full disclosure: It’s produced by Mr DRG)

WORDS: Disneyrollergirl/Navaz Batliwalla