Photo London 2017: five things to see

As the third edition of Photo London gets under way at Somerset House (it runs until Sunday 21) we pick five things you shouldn’t miss if you visit

Eighty-nine galleries are showing work at Photo London this year and, as ever, there’s photography to suit every taste. The ‘Discovery’ section continues to grow in size and scope and brings a selection of emerging international galleries together that nicely counters the presence of the more established places (and big names) that make up the majority of the show space. We went to the preview yesterday – and here are five things that caught our eye.

Albarrán Cabrera, ‘This is You’ series

Presented by the Zurich-based Bildhalle gallery, Cabrera’s ‘This is You’ series is a brilliant, small-scale surprise in the mezzanine exhibition area of the fair. Cabrera’s works invite closer inspection and appear almost like illustrations; they are in fact produced with unique pigments on Japanese gampi paper and gold leaf (in his wider work he also works with platinum and palladium).

“All of this serves just one single purpose,” Cabrera told the Unseen photo fair in 2016. “We want to have far more parameters to play with the viewers experience than just the image itself. The texture, colour, finishing, tones and even the border of a print can give extra information to the viewer.” ‘This is You’ incorporates underexposed found portraiture that has been reworked alongside Cabrera’s own images to create a fictionalised family album.

Francesca Maffeo and Webber galleries, Discovery area

David Chancellor, Akkedis, Prince Albert, South Africa, from the series Family

The ‘Discovery’ section of Photo London is well worth a visit – and two group shows from the Francesca Maffeo and Webber Represents galleries highlight the work of some considerable talents.

Above: Laura Pannack’s ‘The Offering, they got used to each other bit by bit’ (left); ‘If it weren’t for him I’d have eaten you roasted. Now, however, it is you who have eaten me’

The former presents work by Laura Pannack and David Chancellor, while the Webber show has a strong contingent of photographs (and photographic approaches) by Theo Simpson, Marton Perlaki, Thomas Albdorf and Daniel Shea who presents a series of unique one-off editions of water-borne objects.

Ivar Wigan, ‘Young Love’ series

Spotlighting two displays of individual artists’ work, one of the stand-outs for me was Ivar Wigan’s ‘Young Love’ series, on show at the PM/AM gallery stand (image at top of post is a detail from Concrete, 2015). Wigan’s raw and unflinching images of US subcultures wear their supposed informality on their sleeve: each image featuring the camera’s date stamp.

Eastern, 2017

But this casual air lends an intimacy to the portraits and Wigan seems able to enter these worlds with ease; less as an outside observer, more a confidant.

Liz Nielsen, Next Level gallery

Liz Nielsen, Levitating Islands, 2016

Liz Nielsen’s work is unmissable – large-scale bright chunks of colour rise out from the Next Level gallery display. The New York-based photographer creates photograms by constructing her own negatives and essentially painting with light (her work is an interesting colour variant on a darkroom practice employed by Michael Jackson who is also exhibiting his monochromatic ‘luminograms’ this year).

Liz Nielsen, Midnight Portals, 2016

Nielsen’s work comes out of a ‘performance’ in the dark – she works with bike lights, torches, lasers, mobile phone screens to compose the pictures. These are then printed on shiny Fuji Lustre paper, accentuating the light and colour even further.

David Hurn: Swaps

In one of the two large Embankment galleries, Magnum Photos presents ‘David Hurn: Swaps’ – a neat idea for an exhibition based on a lovely conceit by Hurn, one of the agency’s most treasured photographers. The show, curated by Martin Parr, features work from Hurn’s personal collection of images – each one has been acquired by swapping one of his own photographers with one by a new Magnum member.

Over the years, Hurn has traded pictures with everyone from Henri Cartier Bresson to Peter Agtmael and a range of swaps with Magnum colleagues are displayed: a single image of Hurn’s paired with (or in some cases surrounded by) the images he swapped it for. This inevitably invites connections between the pictures in other ways – themes, approaches, sensibilities – but also sheds light on what images of Hurn’s work are appealing to other image-makers.

There are familiar, even classic images here, but also plenty of work that hasn’t been exhibited before. The idea of the photograph as a gift is an appropriate way to end a long day at the fair.

Other displays of note include Juergen Teller’s takeover of the central Embankment arch space (above), Taryn Simon’s interactive Image Atlas project that plays with online image search results and Isaac Julien’s installation based around his 1989 film, Looking for Langston, in the mezzanine level.

Across the gallery shows there’s a huge amount to see: Jan Groover’s series of still life close-ups from the 1970s and Heinz Hajek-Halke’s abstract works were subtle highlights for me amid the glitz and glamour of much of the high-end work. Of course, there’s also the chance to see the work of some of the biggest names in photography – from Horst P Horst to William Eggleston – and William Klein‘s work is dotted throughout the fair, not least via a specially-commissioned 18-metre long piece for the Pavilion. Also great to see was the wall that Galerie Thomas Zander has dedicated to 41 photographs from Lee Friedlander’s ‘Chain Link’ series; a suite of black and white images, shot between 1970 and 2005, all taken through the squares of the ubiquitous criss-crossed fence.

Photo London is at Somerset House in London until May 21. Adult day passes are £29 (concessions, £22; children £18). See photolondon.org

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