Hot Shots: Photo London 2023

Photograph – “Invasion Day 1 – Dawn” by Sasha Goldberger c/o the artist and Galerie X11

In a world where we’re bombarded with pictures, it’s good to know that there is still an event which throws up fascinating and impactful visual images.

Photo London is the UK’s leading annual photographic fair – and it’s a must for anyone who loves the visual arts.

With 110 exhibitors from across five continents, Photo London 2023 showcases the best images from the past, present and future of photography worldwide.

From classic images to ‘star snappers’ and artistic innovators, this massive fair provides a snapshot of what’s great about life caught on camera. Here’s my sneak preview…

Life on Film – Martin Parr

Photographs – “Scarborough” , “St Ives” and “Arles” by Martin Parr c/o Martin Parr, Magnum Photos and Rocket Gallery

Every year, Photo London picks one of the world’s leading photographers to showcase as its “Master of Photography”. This is a masterstroke (if you’ll excuse the pun) as their choice is always a ‘top notch’ global artist.

This year it’s the British photographer Martin Parr who has become something of a “national treasure”. His forte is capturing authentic images of everyday life from around the UK. He’s part artist, part social commentator – and a master “documentarian”.

He’ll be presenting new images taken in the UK, continuing a project which he’s been working on for decades. Parr is a very much a collector of stories, capturing snapshots of British life. He’s brilliant at photographing people ‘on the hoof’, apparently unaware of his presence.

Photographs – “Great Dorset Steam Fair” and “Whitchurch Country Show” by Martin Parr c/o Martin Parr, Magnum Photos and Rocket Gallery

Parr’s striking photos include familiar subjects such as his long fascination with the British seaside as well as images of agricultural shows, summer fetes and shopping malls. I’ve long been a big fan.

Parr describes these images as “an interpretation of the many mixed emotions I feel towards my homeland. It is almost a love/hate relationship, and I find addressing this is almost a form of therapy for me”.

There’s also a chance to catch his early black and white images from ‘hidden stories’ of a mental hospital and his ‘insider’ pictures of the Chinese community in Liverpool and Manchester.

Martin Parr beach Photo London

Photographs – “Llandudno, Wales” by Martin Parr c/o Martin Parr, Magnum Photos and Rocket Gallery

Look out for the incredible grid of images taken from Parr’s playful and entertaining “Beach Therapy” project.

Parr is fascinated by the British seaside. Many of the images have been taken with a telephoto lens in which Parr explores distant figures on the beach, as if we’re interlopers.

There’s also a special talk with the man himself. If you’re just seeing the show, why not grab one of the half a dozen photo deckchairs to contemplate the work you’re looking at?

Strange Times

Photographs – “Tear” and “Long Distance” by Joe Webb c/o Open Doors Gallery

We live in strange times, and this is reflected in many of the recent photographs on display at this year’s show.

Joe Webb creates hand made collages with a message using ‘found imagery’ to make thought provoking art. He looks at issues such as the environment, war, inequality – and our place in the universe. His works are strangely disturbing.

Sasha Goldberger’s images are cinematic in their styling and resemble sets for Hollywood movies. The impressive “Invasion Day One’ series includes troubling images of an alien incursion. It’s all very “From Out of the Unknown”.

Another image shows a taxi driver ferrying a glamorous woman who looks like she’s straight out of a 1940’s noirish B-movie. It’s almost like a still life and reveals the influence of Sasha’s background in advertising.

Where she’s going is anyone’s guess. It’s your opportunity to imagine or construct the story behind the image.

Photograph – “Invasion Day One – Objects in a Mirror are Closer than They Appear” by Sasha Goldberger c/o the artist and Galerie X11

Troubling Landscapes

Photographs – “Dialogues of an Introvert Chapter One by Sameer Taude c/o UP Gallery; and “Sand Dune” by Edward Burtynsky.

Many of the works at Photo London illustrate the impact that man is having on vulnerable landscapes due to the impact of climate change.

Flowers Gallery is showing a new work by Edward Burtynsky, whose semi-abstract, aerial images chronicle the unsettling reality of the human imprint on the planet.

Man’s relationship to nuclear energy is the subject of works by Michael Koerner. He constructs chemically manipulated images to convey the ongoing fallout of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki which claimed the lives of five of his family members to cancer.

Photographs – “Contaminated” by Bootsy Holler c/o the artist and Virginia Visual Arts

Environmental works by the American artist Bootsy Holler include the powerful “Contaminated” series.

They tell the story of her birthplace, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, a large U.S. nuclear site during World War II.

The facility was used for the production of plutonium, some of which was used in the first atomic bomb. This is a particularly powerful and deeply unsettling series of images.

There’s also a solo presentation of the world-renowned photographer, artist and activist Gideon Mendel, whose work looks at the human experience and physical impacts of climate change.

Photograph – “Hovedoya” by Mikkel McAlinden, courtesy of Thomas Demand and Galerie K

Themes of landscape and the environment feature strongly across Photo London. Of particular note is a a solo show by artist Mandy Barker whose work involves marine plastic debris.

There’s also a solo presentation of the world-renowned photographer, artist and activist Gideon Mendel. His photographs show the human experience and physical impact of climate change.

I’m particularly looking forward to seeing works by the Norwegian photographer Mikkel McAlinden who captures mysterious landscapes with a touch of ‘Scandi’ noir menace.

Mysterious Scenarios

Photographs – “Brokenheart” and “Border Crossing” by Carlos and Jason Sanchez c/o Christopher Cutts Gallery

Two of my favourite photographers are Carlos and Jason Sanchez. Their meticulously staged, mysterious images use custom-built sets and eerie lighting to create fictional scenes.

The brothers work both on location and also create sets in their studio. Their finished works are often a digital composite of multiple negatives.

For me, their most impressive works are their big format, brightly coloured, detailed ‘set piece’ interiors which look like modern still lives. They mix realism and surrealism – and often provide a commentary on modern society and consumerism.

Photographs – “At a Moment’s Notice” and “Charlotte’s Hallucination” by Carlos and Jason Sanchez c/o the artists and Christopher Cutts Gallery

The two Canadians sometimes focus on on the psychological reflections of their subjects, and encourage the viewer to interact with the work by ‘filling in’ the details in the open-ended scenes depicted.

Their abandoned, boarded-up house in a frozen landscape with the words “Brokenheart” spray-painted on the side is especially evocative, reflecting current recessionary times.

Their poignant image of a bright red suitcase floating in an ocean of water prompts questions about global travel, climate change and possibly the various migrant crises around the world.

Music, Fashion and Celebrities

Photographs – “Veruschka” by Franco Rubartelli and “Vogue” by Peter Lindbergh c/o the artist and Ira Stehmann Fine Art

Several galleries celebrate photography’s relationship with the worlds of music, fashion and celebrity. This is a theme which Photo London has continued to return to year after year.

The crème de la crème of fashion photographers such as Peter Lindbergh and the rarely shown Steven Meisel are amongst those being exhibited.

The Italian gallery 29 ARTS IN PROGRESS will be showing fashion photography and supermodels by Gian Paolo Barbieri, Rankin, and Mario Testino.

The Iconic Images gallery will be making a splash with Terry O’Neill’s photographs “The Beatles Take Flight” and “Elton John in the Starship”. They’re always fun even if you can’t afford to splash the cash on them.

Surreal and Vintage

Photographs – “Simone and Nina – Piazza di Spagna, Rome” by William Klein and “Erik – Spring Street – Manhattan” by Lea Lund and Erik c/o the artists and Catherine Edelman Gallery

Vintage photography is immensely popular with buyers of prints so expect a lot of retro works at Photo London.

Two of the earliest works on display are William Henry Fox Talbot’s “St. Georges Chapel, Windsor” and Nicholas Henneman’s “Westminster Abbey”, both made around 1844.

The Galerie Sophie Scheidecker is showing a number of surrealist works by Man Ray, “L ́Origine des Espèces” (1935) and Manuel Alvarez Bravo”s “Instrumental” (1931).

The Lee Miller Foundation exhibition is well worth a drop-in. It’s showcasing works by Miller and Roland Penrose documenting their Balkan journey as the world was on the brink of World War II.

Grob Gallery is showing rare prints by Édouard Boubat and William Klein alongside pieces by Brassai, Cartier-Bresson, Brancusi, and Bill Brandt.


Photographs: “La Scala – Backstage” by Giovanni Hanninen and “Passerelle” by Jean Pierre Attal c/o the artist and Gallerie Olivier Waltman

Playing with patterns is another visual theme which gets a good run-out at this year’s Photo London show.

The Finnish-Italian photographer Giovanni Hänninen juggles with the tiers of the La Scala theatre to create multiple miniature images within the overall picture. Jean Pierre Attal does something similar with his cool silhouettes of workers on sidewalks.

Elsewhere there are many examples of photographers mixing their medium with abstract art and painting.

Photographs – “Puzzle Wood” by Fenna Schilling c/o Homecoming Gallery Left).
Lena Amuat and Zoe Meyer c/o Robert Morat Galerie (right)

Women on Camera

Photographs – “Sylvia” by Kira Krasz c/o Open Doors Gallery; “Manchester” by Shirley Baker c/o Estate of Shirley Baker and “Jeweled Vision” by Justine Tjallinks c/o Sophie Scheidecker

“Writing her own Script” looks to be an exciting showcase which celebrates pioneering British women photographers over the last 100 years.

It’s a great overview of photography in Britain focusing on two strands – the documentary tradition and more personal works. It provides an opportunity to consider the use of photography as a social or political tool.

Works on display include photographs by Edith Tudor-Hart, the Picture Post images of Grace Robertson, and the street photography of Dorothy Bohm.

Another of my favourite photographers – Shirley Baker and her evocative black and white photos of Manchester and Salford – is also featured. I remember these streets from when I lived in Manchester – now long demolished.

Photographs – “Work in Progress” and “Asymtote” by Evelyn Bencicova

The visually striking works of Evelyn Bencicova is a highlight from the bigger show. Her surreal photographs are clever and intriguing.

This young Czech artist constructs compelling visual images and narratives that “blur the lines between reality, memory, and imagination”.

She plays entices us into a “labyrinth of imagination” with her disturbing and beautiful photographs set in curious environments.

Photograph“Sakura” by Shae Detar c/o Open Doors Gallery

Another of my favourite women photographers is Shae Detar whose surrealistic images merge photography and painting by exaggerating the colours of both the landscapes and her subjects.

Shae creates otherworldly photographic using mixed media imagery, often using a unique hand-painting process in which she paints on top of her photographs.

The photographer plans her photographic locations carefully, often driving into the remotest regions at home in the US or farther afield. She places her subjects into the most untouched and idyllic landscapes she can find which makes for interesting viewing.

Photo London 2023: Who, What, Where and When…

Photograph – Somerset House c/o Photo London

Photo London 2023 is at Somerset House in London and runs from 11–14 May 2023 across the whole building and courtyard areas.

For its 2023 edition, 125 exhibitors from 56 cities from across the globe will present a brilliant array of photographic imagery.

A standard day ticket is priced at £32 with concessions also available. It is cheaper to get a weekend pass if you plan to spend more than one day at the event.

The nearest Tube and mainline rail station is Charing Cross, a short walk from Somerset House. London Buses also stop close to the main building.

Photographs – “Drag Queens at Party” by Elizabeth Waterman c/o Albumen Gallery;”Roma” by Fausto Giaccone c/o the artist and Galleria Valeria Bella; and Brancusi sculpture

The Photo London Talks Programme runs throughout the Fair and can also be seen online from 25 April to 15 May.

It features leading photographers, curators, writers and critics who’ll discuss photography and its significance in the contemporary art world today. Martin Parr is the star turn this year.

Photo London also presents a series of excellent free workshops in partnership with Nikon UK.

Photograph – “Old Boys” by Sam Wright c/o the artist and New Dimensions Gallery

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