Photo London Until Sunday 14th May Somerset House Strand London WC2R 1LA
Photo London is now a fixture in the international art world calendar, and returns to Somerset House in London for its 8th edition, which features 125 exhibitors from 56 cities around the globe. This year’s Master of Photography is Martin Parr, the unparalleled documenter of British life and all it’s eccentriccities and traditions.
A British theme continues with a group show curated by the recently opened Centre for British Photography: ‘Writing her own Script. Women Photographers from the Hyman Collection’. The exhibition presents a selection of pioneering women photographers who have worked in Britain over the past century and includes; Sonia Boyce, winner of the Golden Lion for Best National Participation at last year’s Venice Biennale, as well as Heather Agyepong, Shirley Baker, Dorothy Bohm, Juno Calypso, Helen Chadwick, Hannah Collins, Caroline Coon, Maisie Cousins, Eliza Hatch, Rose Finn-Kelcey, Susan Hiller, Anna Fox, Sarah Jones, Karen Knorr, Marketa Luskacova, Sarah Maple, Rosy Martin, Linda McCartney, Laura Pannack, Polly Penrose, Grace Robertson, Jo Spence, Edith Tudor-Hart and Bindi Vora.
Each year Photo London presents a pavilion installation, and this year’s eye-catching project ‘I MATTER’ is an outdoor photographic exhibition presented by CASE Art Fund, a non-profit organisation raising awareness about the human rights of children. Monochrome photographs of children from around the world are pasted around the exterior of the central pavilion, each holding a sign stating “I MATTER” in their native language. The motive behind the installation is to remind us that all children matter, regardless of race, class, sexual orientation, legal status, or religion.
Co-Founders of the Fair, Michael Benson & Fariba Farshad said: As ever there’s a multiplicity of themes — from a celebration of British photography (for obvious reasons) to a focus on photography from Iran and Mexico; from the work of the early pioneers and masters of the form, to images made by a brash new wave of artists who are embracing the possibilities of new technology with the same experimental zeal that characterised the work of those early pioneers.
Here is a selection of my favourite exhibits at Photo London 2023;
Canadian gallerist Christopher Cutts is exhibiting a suite of intriguing images by brothers Carlos & Jason Sanchez, which examine migration, politics and class. The artists have described their works as “mise-en-scene photography” and they all have an element of drama and suspense. A large-scale inkjet print of a tiny piece of orange luggage floating alone in the middle of the sea brings to mind the desperation of migrants attempting channel crossings to reach a better life. ‘At a Moment’s Notice’, a huge print depicting a hastily abandoned dining room in an opulent setting, is reminiscent of a scene from Ruben Östlund’s Oscar-nominated film ‘Triangle of Sadness’, a satire of the super-rich warning of the dangers of gluttony and greed.
German Gallerist Peter Sillem is exhibiting new photographs by Yemeni-Bosnian-US artist Alia Ali, as well as a triptych of stunning sculptures made of Lapis Lazuli. Alia has lived in and between 7 countries and travelled to 67, and consequently her work reflects on the politics of linguistics, identity, borders, universality, colonization, and the inherent dualism that exists in each of them.
Galerie XXI, founded in 2008 in Paris and now with locations in Shanghai and Los Angeles, are presenting cinematic prints by Sacha Golderberger and beautiful monochrome equine portraits with a twist by Anja Niemi. Golderberger’s striking images include a glossy shot of a New York taxi, which has a retro Technicolor vibe and a mysterious narrative. Titled ‘Objects in a mirror are closer than they appear’, upon closer inspection the taxi driver is looking in his wing mirror while his glamorous passenger stares out of the back window like a Hitchcock heroine.
Echo Fine Arts are exhibiting Cecilia Paredes, an intriguing photographer who wraps, covers or paints her body with the same pattern as the backdrop in her self-portraits. Paredes says that in her work “aesthetics bind with anthropology in order to register fragments of my personal and social memory.”
Bildhalle gallery, based in Zurich and Amsterdam, was my overall standout exhibition at Photo London. Bildhalle is presenting exquisite painterly photographs by contemporary photographer Ilona Langbroek, and beautiful blue-gold carbon prints of flowers and trees on Kozo paper by Paul Cupido, as well as cyanotype prints by Mika Horie, and monochrome prints by René Groebli taken in the 1950s.
Dutch photographer Ilona Langbroek graduated cum laude from Fotoacademie Amsterdam in 2019 with “Silent Loss”, a personal series based on her family history in the former Dutch East Indies. Although only recently graduated, Langbroek’s photography has the feeling of another time and place, and explores the colonial past of the Netherlands and Dutch East Indies, and the lost identity and emotions of the large number of people who were forced to leave their country after the Independence. Her photograph of an anonymous female figure pictured from behind, staring out onto a vast expanse of water, possesses the stillness and calm of a Vermeer painting, yet is also imbued with melancholy.
Ilona Langbroek says: “The series ’Silent Loss’ is about an unprocessed past, in which loss plays a leading role. Namely the loss of homeland and identity. I invite the viewer to be part of this memory of the Dutch Esat Indies, derived from the stories of my grandparents. My work is about an identity long ago thought to be lost, but which is still very much alive under the surface.”
Standout images featured by London gallery Purdy Hicks include ethereal photographs of flowers by Kathrin Linkersdorff, and a colourful portrait by performative photographer Samuel Fosso titled ‘From the Tati series, La femme libérée américaine dans des annéees 70’, Fosso’s 1997 Tati series is comprised of satirical self-portraits depicting Fosso dressed up as various cliché personas such as an American housewife, an African chief or an overly coiffed bourgeois woman.
Parisian gallery 193 champions contemporary photography from South East Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, South America, Europe and Oceania. At Photo London they are presenting Leon Nab Ouedraogo’s colourful Mask Series and John Yuyi’s commentary on racial prejudice including a print titled ‘I am not a female Asian Artist’.
Arts in Progress gallery is showing fashion photography by Gian Paolo Barbieri, Rankin, and Mario Testino, but the image that caught my eye was a 1993 shot of Cameron Diaz wearing a T-Shirt with the slogan ‘our Pussys our choice’ by Michel Haddi.
Lee Sharrock is a global creative PR consultant, curator and writer for publications including; Art Doc Photography Magazine, ArtLyst, Creative Review, FAD Magazine, F22, Runway Gallery Magazine, Soho House Magazine and STATE.