After the success of its inaugural edition earlier this year, Photo London has announced its return in 2016, putting on a week-long celebration of photography taking in city-wide exhibitions, installations and talks from the 19th to the 22nd May next year.
Produced by Candlestar, the company behind the Prix Pictet and numerous other curatorial-based enterprises, this year Photo London housed more than 70 galleries at Somerset House. As Michael Benson, co-director of Candlestar and co-founder of Photo London alongside Fariba Farshad, told us, the fair has whet the city’s appetite for photography.
“Next year we’ve extended to include 80 galleries – we have been so inundated with applications that we’ve even had to create a temporary structure in the courtyard.” Exhibitors include Flowers Gallery, Galerie Polaris and TJ Boulting, with top photography galleries showing alongside a ‘Discovery’ section for emerging galleries.
Work shown also includes a site-specific commission by London artists Walter and Zoniel, a series of works by Turner Prize-winning artist and photographer Craigie Horsfield and an exhibition of work loaned from the Moscow Multimedia Art Museum. They also hope to attract non-buyers with a series of talks with participants like Chloe Dewe Mathews, Nadav Kander, David Maisel and Martin Parr.
The work of Don McCullin will receive special attention; he was named as the Photo London Master of Photography 2016 in recognition of his iconic career. “Every year we recognise someone who, over many years, has achieved extraordinary things in photography; last year our inaugural award was given to Sebastião Salgado,” Benson explained. “It’s a real tribute to a person whose sustained genius has been evident for many decades.” A special exhibition of his work will be presented at Somerset House, and he will also be speaking with Tate Photography Curator Simon Baker in conversation open to the public.
At last Friday’s press announcement, McCullin spoke with multi-disciplinary artist Isaac Julien about his career and the changing role of contemporary photography. He touched on his dislike of digital imagery (“it looks as if someone has tried to redesign a chocolate box”) and the changing discourse around taking pictures in public: “Things are different now. None of us have the right to photograph without permission, I know that… but of course we have the most surveillance cameras in Western Europe.”
The fair marks a concerted effort to drag London to the centre of the photography conversation, and as Benson tells us, this time, it could stick: “I think London has got photography, for the first time in an awfully long time. We’ve noticed a huge grass roots enthusiasm for photography, I think London has woken up to the fact that it didn’t really take photography as seriously as it might’ve done.
“People have began to think seriously about the collecting of photography, for a few reasons. Contemporary art collectors reached the end of a particular road and are changing their habits, the major museums had a big part to play in this, from appointing people like Simon Baker, to the redevelopment of The Photographers’ Gallery.” Benson hopes to tap into this institutional resurgence – museums such as the Barbican, the National Portrait Gallery and the V&A will be hosting photography exhibitions that May.
“Photography is so clearly the keystone of our age that it isn’t really surprising that people are taking it seriously as an art form. It’s a very accessible art form too, almost anyone can get into it and it’s sharable. Being the kind of city London is, one of the world’s great cultural capitals, perhaps the world’s leading cultural capital, it’s a bit of a shame we didn’t take photography seriously a bit sooner. But it’s catching up now and I hope we’ve done our bit to help that happen.”
Photo London returns to Somerset House next year, 19-22 May 2o16. It will be open to the public.