A Review of the Photo London Fair 2016 at Somerset House, London
Photo London was only launched in 2015 but this year’s event, held at Somerset House, was a world-class gathering. Founders Michael Benson and Fariba Farshad brought together 85 of the world’s leading photography galleries, supplemented by special exhibitions by the likes of photo-journalist Don McCullin, Russian photographer Sergey Chilikov and Turner-nominated artist Craigie Horsfield. There were also various talks, lectures and panel discussions held over the days of the show.
Somerset House provides numerous rooms and areas over three floors for exhibiting and to these were added two large marquees in the courtyard. You had to pay careful attention to make sure you saw everything: given the number of galleries, there were thousands of images on display, which led to mild visual overload. Nonetheless there were many treats in store.
In the central tents, Hamiltons (London) had a good selection from the likes of Helmut Newton, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon and Horst, as well as some more recent works from Cathleen Naundorf. The gallery was also showing a great image by Australian photographer Murray Fredericks, part of his series studying the ‘Hector’ weather phenomenon in the Northern Territories from the air – a refreshingly powerful black and white image with a monumental feel.
Camera Work (Berlin) brought some strong fashion images by Herb Ritts and Patrick Demarchelier, and next door to them, Ben Brown Fine Arts (Hong Kong) had a lovely, meditational Hiroshi Sugimoto seascape.
Further down the same allée, Daniel Blau (Munich) had a spectacular ‘nudogramm’ by Floris Neusüss. Created in Munich in 1964 and two metres high, it is a photogram created from life using a nude model with leaves. And neighbouring Blau, Hackelbury Fine Art (London) carried some wonderful images by British photographer Garry Fabian Miller. He creates abstract light compositions somewhere between Rothko and James Turrell which positively glow their way into your subconscious.
Moving into the Somerset House rooms, In Camera Galerie (Paris) showed some images by Julian Germain with whimsical titles such as For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness. As well as giving the viewer something to mull over, the large, square-format pictures of everyday life were strangely moving.
Flowers Gallery (London) maintained its record for quality bringing Korean photographer Boomoon who produces wonderfully contemplative natural images, as well as Edward Burtynsky who was showing one of his Skogar waterfall series.
Upstairs, Tristan Hoare Gallery (London) showed us Alejandro Guijarro’s Harvard series of blackboards, part of a three-year project at the heart of quantum mechanics. The monochrome images of a monochrome subject have a curious effect on one’s perception as you subconsciously look for the bloom of chalk marks but find none. You can’t help touching them to check.
Galerie Taik Persons (Berlin) exhibited some stunning C-prints by Finnish photographer Eeva Karhu. She takes hundreds of images of a single scene and combines them to create what can only be described as an ‘impression’. The effect is magical.
Championing young British talent, Gazelli Art House (London, Baku) brought us a double-sided, artificially-coloured triptych Alpha-Ation 'Emily' 2015 from Walter & Zoniel and an intriguing nude in a bath Fermata 2015 from photographer and filmmaker Charlotte Colbert.
Nearby, what appeared to be a study of moonlight on water turned out to be a photographic representation of the data relating to stock trades as Lehman Brothers collapsed. It was taken by Mathieu Bernard-Reymond, who is represented by Baudoin Lebon (Paris). An intriguing parallel.
Galerie Thomas Zander (Cologne) had a nice set of Dieter Meier’s Given Names. These are black-and-white street shots of unknown individuals, mostly in New York in1970, for whom Meier then chose a name he thought appropriate, eg Raymond Flynn for a young be-suited guy in a hurry.
And so one comes to the master, Sebastaio Salgado, brought here by Peter Fetterman Gallery (Santa Monica). Personally I prefer Salgado’s images without people and the one chosen, Iceberg, was as powerful as any. As with so many works here, seeing such pieces in the flesh, often printed to between one and two metres wide, is an utterly different experience to an image in a book or on a screen.
I left visually exhausted, but cannot wait for 2017.
The event was sponsored by wealth manager Pictet and the FT Weekend, and supported by Leica, Pommery and Artsy.
Written by James Ogilvy, Contributor to Arteviste.com