Travel the world with Harry Gruyaert

Michael Hoppen Gallery in London is exhibiting a classic series of photographs by Harry Gruyeart, which despite now being over 30 years old, remain as vibrant and fresh as ever

London is awash with photography this week, as Photo London arrives at Somerset House and accompanying shows spring up across the city. Among these, Michael Hoppen Gallery is celebrating the work of Magnum Photos’ Harry Gruyeart.

Titled ‘Western and Eastern Light’, the exhibition focuses on Gruyeart’s travel photography of the 1980s, which saw the photographer capture images from places as diverse as the USA, India and Egypt.

Harry Gruyaert
Top: USA. Los Angeles, 1982; Above: USA. Los Angeles, 1982. All images: © Harry Gruyaert / Magnum Photos. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery
Harry Gruyaert
France, Paris, 1985
Harry Gruyaert
Spain, Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, 1988

Travel photography seems the wrong phrase to describe Gruyeart’s imagery, however, suggesting a far blander context for the work than the magical and mysterious scenes that are conjured up.

Alongside William Egglestone and Stephen Shore, Gruyeart has always been interested in the power of colour in photography, using it to create scenes that at times feel other-worldly and rich with narrative.

Harry Gruyaert
Mali, 1998
Harry Gruyaert
Belgium, Antwerp, 1988
USA, Las Vegas International Airport, 1988

Gruyeart has acknowledged that he was influenced by the bright intensity of Pop Art in his use of colour and there is certainly a painterly element to his work, despite it still containing the chance elements of photojournalism.

“I am influenced by the way a painter builds a picture, in the same way I am influenced by the way a director composes a scene in a film,” he said in an interview with The Telegraph in 2015. “That moment where each element in the frame comes together to make a whole … yellow here, blue there, a nice structure there and suddenly, wow, a person walks into the shot. I’ve never stopped finding that magical.”

Harry Gruyaert
Egypt, Cairo, 1988
Harry Gruyaert
Trivandrum, India, 1989
Harry Gruyaert
USA, Las Vegas, 1982

Harry Gruyaert: Western and Eastern Light is on show at Michael Hoppen Gallery in London until June 27. More info at michaelhoppengallery.com

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