Photo London: Old Masters Meet New Blood

Photo London is filled to the rafters with the best the visual arts and the world of photography has to offer. Not even Brexit can halt the juggernaut nor sour aficionados’ appetites as the photo fest enters its fifth year at its sumptuous Somerset House venue. It seems the two were made for each other; Ornate fireplaces, double-height ceilings, arches doorways, sweeping staircases, airy, light-filled rooms, and of course, the best photography money can buy. Ansel Adams; David Bailey, Martin Parr; Roger Fenton; Vivian Maier; Helmut Newton; Sabine Weiss; Ralph Gibson; Thurston Hopkins; Malick Sidibe; Nick Brandt; Stephen Shore and many more.

The subjects are diverse, fascinating, revealing and educational in equal measure. Mary McCartney’s behind-the-scenes documentary of ballet dancers letting their hair down and nursing their battered bodies and feet makes for compelling study in Off Pointe. And almost as revealing was to hear her reason for following the footsteps of mother Linda into photography — a friend’s crappy holiday snaps. The Leica Gallery showcases a decade’s black and white work of Ralph Gibson, the seminal Somnambulist. You won’t fail to be moved by the loss of habitat for endangered elephants stranded in the city in Nick Brandt’s compelling body of work.

New meets Old

Even the big beasts are here as Bailey prowls around the pavilion galleries glowering at the framed prints on the walls showing his disdain or approval as he pads around with his girlfriend. But is there anything new in photography apart from the old masters? You bet, there are new and emerging leading lights constantly redefining the genre.

Thirty-one year-old Australian Tom Blachford is already an Instagram star enthralling his fans with the cinematic quality of his work. On display here is his Midnight Modern series, an interplay between architecture, moonlight and the dramatic mountain backdrop. The mid-century apartments of Palm Springs in Los Angeles are shot using just the natural light of the full moon. The results are awe-inspiring and beautiful beyond words. Thank God there are no street lights here and Blachford has continued his pilgrimage to capture the surreal scenes. He begins shooting from dusk until four in the morning after discovering moonlight was more flattering for his subjects than daylight.

Shore Thing  

American photographer Stephen Shore is the fair’s Master of Photography for 2019. Shore’s photographs explore and document the ordinary scenes of everyday life, transforming seemingly mundane scenarios and objects into subjects of thoughtful consideration. Known for his pioneering use of colour photography and early experimentation with new technologies, Shore’s work has been widely published and exhibited for the past 45 years, including a recent solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. As part of Photo London’s 2019 Public Programme, Shore has presented a new body of work, which is being shown for the first time in the UK. He is also showing a series from 1969 titled Los Angeles, which features 60 small photographs taken throughout one day in 1969 in LA.

Six to See 

Photo London is a sprawling spectacle and it is easy to bypass some of its intriguing highlights; Ben Brown Fine Arts presents a new project by leading British artist Gavin Turk featuring a giant bronze egg sculpture installation on the River Terrace. The plan of organisers is for the egg to hatch metaphorically into an Instagram photography competition with entries being projected on the walls of the Great Arch Hall during the Fair. Atlas Gallery showcases Nick Brandt’s timely work on endangered elephants trapped in an urban nightmare.

Head for the lower ground floors where Howard Greenberg Gallery is showcasing a selection of works by the late American street photographer Vivian Maier, marking the first major presentation of the work of the mysterious nanny in the UK. Essential works by pioneering photographer Roger Fenton, known as one of the first war photographers, is on loan from the Wilson Centre and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Irish photographer, electronic music producer and DJ Eamonn Doyle is showing an immersive audio-visual work titled, ‘Made in Dublin’ in collaboration with Chelsea-based Michael Hoppen Gallery. The New York Times displays a selection of drone images by Staff Photographer and Senior Editor for Photo Technology Josh Haner on the theme of climate change.

Photo London 2019, 16 – 19 May 2019, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA

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