Eighty of the world’s leading galleries showing photography, a public programme including talks, symposia, book signings, exhibitions and installations, all taking place at the magnificent Somerset House made Photo London an essential, vibrant and engaging event. Works on display ranged from nineteenth century masters through to conceptual installation works by emerging artists. Large numbers of visitors made their way through the stunning architectural surroundings to see galleries from Paris, Lisbon, Tokyo, New York, Berlin and further afield as well as a strong representation from the London galleries. Spaces that were particularly notable included;
Analog, a small project space, showing Richard Nicholson’s documentary photographs of London’s fast disappearing dark rooms made in 2005/6. Since that time there has been a resurgence in these spaces and Nicholson has now turned his attention to the cinema projectionist’s rooms.
Between Bridges, a commission by Wolfgang Tillman installed in the courtyard of Somerset House next to the pavilions, was particularly engaging and attracted crowds who were interested in his take on the European referendum and Brexit. His artwork was a striking call to audiences.
Works from Christina De Middel’s new project Antipodes (2016) were shown by Dillon Gallery (NY). The photographic works went beyond the landscape, map and document and did not look at the classical representation or beauty of the most exotic and unusual locations but instead showed an inverted world. The gallery also showed works from her series Jan Mayes (2014). This body of work takes the remarkable story of a group of wealthy British and German scientists who in 1911 decided to re-discover a remote island between Greenland and Iceland. Their expedition failed but the photographer among them convinced them to stage a landing on an Icelandic beach to cover up their failure. Middel travelled to the Isle of Skye and using the detailed journals of the scientists (provided by the Archive of Modern Conflict) she recreated the hoax. Her project includes her coloured photographs, historical documents and recreated documentary style photography.
Twelve by Craigie Horsfield, curated by the Wilson Centre for Photography, was a highlight of the event. The exhibition clearly showed how the artist contributes to how we experience and understand the photograph. The large, unique portraits of the artist’s friends, family and associates made over a period of 50 years (from the 1970s and created in London, Bath, Rotterdam and Barcelona) are striking in their intensity. The exhibition shows the portrait as a collaborative process between the artist and the sitter and also remarks on the position and experience of the viewer.
Also notable was the Don McCullin exhibition featuring his works that look at conflict both on the streets of 1960s London as well as during major wars like Vietnam. The exhibition clearly demonstrated why McCullin is the best British photographer of conflict, war and divergence.