by George Upton I digiQualia.com
The inaugural Photo London was held across three wings and several floors of Somerset House last weekend. The largest ever exhibition dedicated to photography, with 70 galleries from 20 countries, 3 commissioned exhibitions, 2 installations and a comprehensive programme of talks attracted over 20,000 visitors to Somerset House.
It’s location, a palatial 18th century building on the banks of the Thames, was notable for avoiding the vast, makeshift gridded expanses of most art fairs, and this added much to the experience. In a setting that encouraged you to wind your way around the stunning architecture of high ceilinged rooms, the photographs are discovered, appearing and disappearing, and exploring the fair became an all consuming experience.
Here, digiQualia presents a selection from the vast variety of photographs at the fair.
London, 1954 © Marc Riboud, courtesy ATLAS Gallery (London)
London, 1954 by Marc Riboud - exhibited by ATLAS Gallery (London)
ATLAS Gallery exhibited this image of London in the 1950s taken from a series of photographs by the French photographer Marc Riboud that documented his journey ‘From Paris to Peking’. A year before this photo Riboud joined Magnum, the celebrated photography agency that also included Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Cappa, and went on to make his fame as a photojournalist for his extensive reports of the East, especially his unusual access inside Maoist China.
Evoking a very different London to the one in which it was exhibited, this photograph with its rich contrast, saturated with the language of desolate industry, speaks of the newly found prosperity that would go on to fuel the burgeoning economy of the 1960s. In the same year that this photograph was taken, rationing finally ended in Britain and the austerity which had followed the end of the Second World War nine years earlier began to ease.
In Pursuit of the Object at a Proper Distance #7, escheweiler ©Conor Clarke, courtesy Galerie Pavlova (Berlin)
In Pursuit of the Object at a Proper Distance #7 by Conor Clarke - exhibited by Galerie Pavlova (Berlin)
As the debate on climate change becomes ever more one sided, the evidence for man’s effect on the planet indisputable, stock images of smoke billowing from chimneys into the atmosphere and blocking out the sun have become ubiquitous illustrations to news reports on the subject. Conor Clarke’s photographs then, titled In Pursuit of the Object at a Proper Distance #13, take this trope of man-made armageddon and instead muses on its suitability as a photographic subject, cropping closely despite shooting long distance, and subtly gives comment on the struggle to find the right approach to take on climate change by governments worldwide, when the problem is wrought large in front of them.
Encouble #32 ©Delphine Burtin, courtesy Gallery Fifty One (Antwerp)
Uncouple #32 by Delphine Burtin - exhibited by Gallery Fifty One (Antwerp)
Delphine Burtin’s work falls into the long tradition of still lifes, traditionally a style of painting that has always been an arena for artists to demonstrate their skill and compete with their peers. Here Burtin is reimagines still lifes, confronting their role in the age of photography and conceptual art art where the idea has become more important than the skill used to make the work. This is done through the skill used in taking the photograph itself, the image beautifully minimal, crisp and delicate in tone but also through the subject matter - paper. Paper was the foundation of imagery until imagery was digitised. This photograph therefore succinctly looks back through the history of art while demonstrating how far art has come.