LONDON - It’s all about photography in London at the moment. Set in the city’s most exquisite venue, Photo London brought to us by Candlestar, is offering us a wide range of material – from the great masters such as Man Ray, Berenice Abbott and Candida Hofer to interesting new photographers like Sohei Nishino from Japan; from the pricey to the affordable – there is a lot to take in, and something for everyone. As a non-specialist, I welcomed the chance to ramble around Somerset House (albeit occasionally getting lost in its many corridors!) and to rely on my eye alone. Since just about everyone has experimented with a camera lens, closet photographers throughout the city can have a field day here – observing what makes a photograph great as opposed to the simply successful. We see artistic imagination at play, yet the material seems more accessible than elsewhere. With a range that covers Tehran prostitutes and Sevruguine Qajar photos, nature and mountain scenery, pop art and nude subjects, Japanese hyper-materiality and Salgado prints from the V & A archives – the fair-goer can expect substantial scope. A section devoted to ‘discovery’ and newer material challenges expectations, and some smaller galleries bring as much to the game as the major ones such as Ben Brown, Kasmin and the Photographer’s Gallery. My own favourites included the ‘wedding photo’ by Gohar Dashti, and Nishino’s London – a ‘where’s Wally’ post-card pastiche of a tableau that has you scrutinizing for hours! It would be a mistake not to see this fair before it ends. In tandem with it, Encounters, a gem of an exhibition by Sueraya Shaheen at Malletts on Dover St (organized by The Auction Room) depicts portraits of prominent Middle Eastern artists alongside a roomful of fun-filled portraits by the irrepressible Hasan Hajjaj. And if you are in the buying mood, Sothebys brings photographs to auction with a bang.
An unrivalled selection of classic works on May 23 at Sotheby’s London will bring fashion and glamour to buyers seeking the iconic image or the exceptional technique of a master photographer, or even simply a beautiful yet affordable print (view catalogue). The sale will open with a chapter devoted to one of the greatest fashion photographers of all time, Helmut Newton, followed by other important works by the likes of Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth, Candida Hofer and Elger Esser. If the collectible and vintage is not for you, there are more contemporary, topical works such as by Shirin Neshat, or the very affordable Daido Moriyama Untitled Hawaii – a steal at £5000–7000. No one can pass by the seminal image of Steve Curry’s Afghan Girl without being affected, nor see Irving Penn’s Sophia Loren without an instant frisson. Looking at these images, we truly understand photography as the real medium of communication – whether journalistically, voyeuristically, or just for fun. As a medium, it is the ultimate democracy in art, and a young one at that. Under two hundred years old, and so much more to give!