The Photographers’ Gallery celebrates the chaos of Soho in new show

A new exhibition at The Photographers’ Gallery in London offers a visual journey of Soho’s vibrant and eccentric history, as seen through the lens of iconic figures including William Klein and Corinne Day

Perhaps more than anywhere else in London, Soho has stood as an emblem of hedonism. In testament to this, as the area attempts to cling onto its identity in the face of advancing gentrification, The Photographers’ Gallery is holding an exhibition that celebrates its resplendent visual and cultural history.

Opening on October 18, Shot In Soho includes works by legendary photographers like William Klein, Anders Petersen, as well as the late Corinne Day, whose Soho home occasionally served as the set for her renowned editorial shoots. The exhibition features other photographers who aren’t necessarily associated with shooting Soho, such as Kelvin Brodie, Clancy Gebler Davies and John Goldblatt, but who helped to document it nonetheless. It also includes new, specially commissioned work by Daragh Soden, who explores the heart of contemporary Soho.

Top: Kelvin Brodie for The Sunday Times Magazine, 1968 © Times Newspapers Ltd; Above: from ‘The Undressing Room’, 1968 © John Goldblatt
Shoes polisher, Rocky II, etc, Piccadilly, 1980 © William Klein

A cultural hub and a hub for multiculturalism, it’s little surprise that Soho became the face of countless iconic movements – from Swinging London over on Carnaby Street to the beating heart of the music scene on Denmark Street – and home to various communities that shaped the area’s personality.

Now, Soho is flanked by commercial hotspots and taunted by the impending arrival of developers (the gallery seems keen to highlight the eventual impact of the local Crossrail station on Tottenham Court Road). It seems the area – itself a tourist destination these days – is battling to guard its character.

Though Soho still harbours relics of its eccentric past, they serve as embers of a long history that’s potentially winding down, but ought not fade from memory thanks to the wealth of photographers who documented it.

Men hiding their faces / 69 Sauna & Massage © William Klein
From England’s Dreaming for The Face, 1993 © The Corinne Day Archive
The Colony Room Club, 1999-2000 © Clancy Gebler Davies
Looking for Love, 2019 © Daragh Soden

Shot In Soho runs at The Photographers’ Gallery, London from October 18–February 20; thephotographersgallery.org.uk

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