Photo London 2022

Top five fair highlights

Selected by Alex Merola

Bringing together over 100 exhibitors from around the globe, Photo London has returned to Somerset House for its seventh edition. Brimming with bold impressions on the medium from early trailblazers through to today’s most exceptional talents, it has something for all tastes. Here are five standout displays from the capital’s premier photography fair – selected by 1000 Words Assistant Editor, Alex Merola.


1. Once Upon the War in Kharkiv
Alexandra de Viveiros

Maintaining a robust commitment to the dissident photographers of Ukraine’s Kharkiv School of Photography – borne in the early 1970s out of a city now besieged by Russian troops – Alexandra de Viveiros’ presentation prompts a particularly urgent viewing. Of marked significance here are the pieces by Evgeniy Pavlov, one of the co-founders of the Vremia Group, which set out to create a visual opposition to dominant Soviet narratives and the aesthetic canon of Social Realism. Pavlov’s Archive Series (1965–88) italicises scenes of everyday life with a quiet, personal lyricism through colour retouching, whilst his ragged photo-collage, dated 1985, keeps the mind busy and ambiguity open. Sharing these walls with Pavlov are father and son Victor and Sergey Kochetov, whose wonderfully expressive hand-tinted prints – referencing Boris Mikhailov’s art of luriki – communicate both the backwardness of Soviet technology as well as a nostalgic attachment towards it. With the inclusion of the School’s newest wave of activities – Vladyslav Krasnoshchok’s harrowing hallucinations of the medical emergencies at a Kharkiv hospital, for instance – de Viveiros has staged a small but powerful constellation bringing together three generations of Ukrainian photographers, all united in their upholding of the right to independence and the freedom of artistic gesture.

2. Anastasia Samoylova, Floridas
Galerie—Peter—Sillem 

Concurrent with showing at The Photographers’ Gallery as part of the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2022, Anastasia Samoylova’s solo booth with Frankfurt’s Galerie—Peter—Sillem is an unmissable affair. Hung in handsome, white-wooden frames, the artist’s prints prevail for their technical brio: sleek, delectable renderings of colour which magically transcribe that distinctly brilliant Floridian light. However, what’s alluring is also alarming, for they convey the contradictory lives of a state totally distracted by its own self-image whilst in the throes of ecological implosion. Though these layered photographs contain subtle references to Walker Evans’ extensive but oft-overlooked body of work made in “Sunshine State” – a kinship teased out in Floridas (2022), her exceptional new book which is available to peruse here – Samoyolova is very much her own artist. Her merging of meticulous observation, deceptive aesthetic and sharp socio-environmental concern marks her out as one of the most intelligent and sophisticated photographers working today – and, indeed, one of the most important to reckon with the fallacies of Florida.

3. Christine Elfman, All solid shapes dissolve in light
EUQINOM Gallery

With an eye for experimental and rigorous photo-based practice, San Francisco-based EUQINOM Gallery has delivered a dynamic display as part of this year’s Discovery section – dedicated to emerging galleries and overseen by 1000 Words Editor-in-Chief, Tim Clark. Commanding a particularly slow and conscious appreciation here are the variously violet-hued anthotypes of Christine Elfman, who, with her series All solid shapes dissolve in light (2019–22), has developed an exquisite technique involving light-sensitive dyes harvested from lichen and month-long solar exposures to produce photographs whose chemical properties mean they are constantly fading. Boasting breathtaking degrees of detail, these capricious pieces reveal those infinitesimal shifts in colour, contrast or density to only the most patient and attentive observers. That these studies are at once disappearing and also becoming is perhaps their most confounding and, ultimately, magical quality. Elfman is evidently as curious about philosophical questions as by photographic ones, and how thrilling it is to find an artist employing such an early analogue process whilst, in turn, upending that dusty, medium-old fantasy of ‘fixity’.

4. The Gallery of Everything

Few in the UK have done more to further the integration and celebration of so-called “outsider artists” – historically sideswiped by the mainstream – than James Brett has, and the fine line he has drawn between the professional and the vernacular at The Gallery of Everything’s (debut) outing makes it one of the most stimulating of this year’s fair. There’s a charming amateurism in the air, with some of the superstars of self-taught image-making packing these walls. Miroslav Tichý’s small, weathered objects – stolen glimpses of female forms through cameras constructed from cans and junk – wind up with a melancholic resonance, as do the mise-en-scène of Morton Bartlett, a fascinating figure who, in the 1940s and ’50s, built and photographed a cast of life-sized dolls that sublimated his lack of “real” relatives (there’s a unique opportunity to see one in the flesh, too). In the company of William Mortensen’s beguiling studio shot of a witch flying a broom, Bartlett’s works surprise for their uncanny awareness of the power of light, shadow and composition. Turning it up a notch are Pierre Molinier’s silver gelatin prints: formally-classic yet thoroughly transgressive propositions on gender, fetishism and narcissism. Flailing an impossible number of limbs encased in stockings, he’s seen through a peep hole, like this booth in general.

5. The Countess of Castiglione
James Hyman Gallery

For their rarity alone, the private, performative self-portraits of the Countess of Castiglione are a must-see. Yet, what is most successful about James Hyman Gallery’s tightly-curated booth, comprised of over 50 prints from three periods (1856–57, 1861–67 and 1893–95), is the way in which it offers a complex narrative arc charting the seductress’ mutating identities and inner-realities. However compliant in the eye of the camera the Countess might appear – self-masqueraded with masks, ballgowns and crowns which, as Abigail Solomon-Godeau argued, saw her act as a ‘scribe’ of predetermined and delimited feminine tropes – she is a rare example of a 19th century woman constructing images for her own gaze: a subject tricking us into thinking she is an object. Whilst the cynosure here is a pair of gold-framed, elaborately-painted photographs which have been unveiled for the first time ever, the most poignant pictures are the final ones through which the aristocrat confronts the impermanence of her beauty. This is a very special tribute to a practitioner whose place within the canon, one feels, should be radically reconsidered. After all, before Cindy Sherman and indeed Claude Cahun, there was the Countess, delving into the work images do and the lives they somehow lead us, or free us, to live.♦

Photo London runs at Somerset House until 15 May 2022.

Alex Merola is Assistant Editor at 1000 Words. 

Images:

1-Evgeniy Pavlov, ‘Untitled’ from Archive Series (1965–88). Courtesy the artist and Alexandra de Viveiros.

2-Viktor and Sergiy Kochetov, ‘Untitled’ (1990). Courtesy the artist and Alexandra de Viveiros.

3-Vladyslav Krasnoshchok, ‘Untitled’ from Bolnichka (2010–18). Courtesy the artist and Alexandra de Viveiros.

4-Anastasia Samoylova, Venus Mirror (2020). Courtesy the artist and Galerie—Peter—Sillem.

5-Anastasia Samoylova, Rust, Hollywood (2019). Courtesy the artist and Galerie—Peter—Sillem.

6-Anastasia Samoylova, Chain Link Fence, Miami (2018). Courtesy the artist and Galerie—Peter—Sillem.

7-Christine Elfman, Cloth Water Stone II (2021) (Variation II). Courtesy the artist and EUQINOM Gallery.

8-Christine Elfman, Reproduction I (2020) (Variation II). Courtesy the artist and EUQINOM Gallery.

9-Christine Elfman, Reproduction III (2021) (Variation III). Courtesy the artist and EUQINOM Gallery.

10-Miroslav Tichý, ‘Untitled’. Courtesy The Gallery of Everything.

11-Morton Bartlett, ‘Untitled’ (c.1950). Courtesy The Gallery of Everything.

12-William Mortensen, Myrdith on Broom (c.1930). Courtesy The Gallery of Everything.

13-Pierre Molinier, ‘Untitled’ (1966). Courtesy The Gallery of Everything.

14-The Countess of Castiglione in collaboration with Pierre-Louis Pierson, L’innocence, variation sur La Reine D’Etrurie (1863). Courtesy James Hyman Gallery.

15-The Countess of Castiglione in collaboration with Pierre-Louis Pierson, La toilette (1861–67). Courtesy James Hyman Gallery.

16-The Countess of Castiglione in collaboration with Pierre-Louis Pierson, La Comtesse de Castiglione (1894). Courtesy James Hyman Gallery.

1000 Words

City Guides

#1 London

Flowers Gallery
82 Kingsland Road, London, E2 8DP
+44 020 7920 7777
www.flowersgallery.com

Not exclusively a photography gallery, Flowers nonetheless exhibits work by a range of important photographers, among them, Tom Lovelace, Nadav Kander, Simon Roberts, Lorenzo Vitturi and Esther Teichmann. Founded in London’s West End by Angela Flowers in 1970, the gallery now has two spaces in London – on Cork Street in Mayfair and Kingsland Road, Shoreditch – as well as a space in New York. Its former London-based Director of Photography, Chris Littlewood, has been instrumental in masterminding Flowers’ direction, cultivating a programme of exhibitions that is challenging, bold and relevant, now overseen by Hannah Hughes and Lieve Beumer. Known for engaging with socio-cultural, political and environmental themes, Flowers stages between six and eight exhibitions per year.

Michael Hoppen Gallery
3 Jubilee Place, London, SW3 3TD
+44 020 7352 3649
www.michaelhoppengallery.com

Since 1992, Michael Hoppen Gallery has been at the forefront of photography in the UK. Nestled in the heart of Chelsea, the gallery prides itself on nurturing careers and showing new work alongside photographs by masters of the genre stretching back to the 19th century. Thanks to the efforts of founder and director Michael Hoppen, the gallery has established a strong relationship with Japan and now boasts one of the most extensive collections of post-war Japanese photography outside of Asia. Several important estates and photographers from Japan grace its roster and the gallery also runs online-only exhibitions to facilitate the sale of more affordable prints.

Seen Fifteen
Unit B1:1, Bussey Building, 133 Rye Lane, London, SE15 3SN
+44 07720 437100
www.seenfifteen.com

Located in Peckham’s Copeland Park, Seen Fifteen is rapidly establishing itself as a go-to place to see and experience contemporary photography, video and installation art in London. At three years old it may be young, but in that short time Seen Fifteen has presented an eclectic, dynamic programme featuring international artists that include Taisuke Koyama, Maya Rochat and Laura El-Tantawy. Focusing on artists who work within photography’s expanded field, gallery founder and director Vivienne Gamble also curated an exhibition at the Centre Culturel Irlandais during Paris Photo 2017, and is one of the driving forces behind Peckham 24, a festival of contemporary photography that takes place during Photo London.

The Photographers’ Gallery
6–18 Ramillies Street, London W1F 7LW
+44 020 7087 9300
www.thephotographersgallery.org.uk

Established in 1971, The Photographers’ Gallery is the UK’s longest running gallery devoted to photography. From its beginnings in Covent Garden to the current site in a converted textiles warehouse in Soho, the gallery has long championed photography’s myriad forms. After it re-opened in May 2012, the registered charity and its staff were in a stronger position to engage with the medium in diverse ways. Increased exhibition space across several floors, a print room, digital wall, bookshop and café allow experimentation and creativity to flourish. Perhaps best known for its association with the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize, the gallery also runs courses, workshops and talks.

Webber Gallery
18 Newman Street, London, W1T 1PE
+44 020 7439 0678
www.webberrepresents.com

Webber Represents is an artist agency with an enviable roster of cutting-edge talent. In November 2014, it launched its own gallery in Fitzrovia dedicated to showing work by represented artists such as Daniel Shea and Thomas Albdorf as well as affiliated artists. Led by Dominic Bell, the gallery’s aim is to explore contemporary photographic themes in an immersive and engaging manner, which it does through a carefully-curated programme of exhibitions, talks and book launches. With regular appearances at international fairs including Photo London and Unseen Amsterdam, Webber Gallery is rapidly making a name for itself in the art world.

Gemma Padley

Image: View of the exhibition Boo Moon at Flowers Gallery, 2014. Courtesy: Flowers Gallery London and New York