The Photographers' Gallery: 50 Years

W e are delighted to be offering for sale an outstanding selection of works, from some of the most interesting contemporary photographers, all donated in support of The Photographers’ Gallery.

From fashion photography to documentary, portraiture to landscape, collage to stitched works and everything in between, these works are an exemplary showcase of the variety and breadth of contemporary photographic practice, and a reminder of how far the medium has come in the past 50 years.

Scroll through to view more artworks.

When our founder Sue Davies set out to create the UK’s first public gallery of photography in a former Covent Garden café 50 years ago, photography as an art form was hugely undervalued in Britain. Virtually no opportunities existed for photographers to exhibit in public or commercial spaces, the medium was largely shunned by the major institutions and the auction world in Britain had not yet ‘discovered’ photography.

Two things happened in 1971 to change that. Firstly, on 14th January, Davies opened the doors to The Photographers’ Gallery – a new space for the exhibition, development and understanding of the medium; and later that year the prestigious auction house Sotheby’s took the ambitious step of staging its first ever photography auction in the UK. These two significant events paved the way for serious consideration of the artistic, critical and commercial aspects of the medium and inspired a network of other independent photo venues and initiatives to emerge across the UK.

TPG 50th Fundraising Auction, 2021 © Heather Shuker

The last five decades have seen photography evolve from the margins of institutional recognition to becoming one of the most influential and democratic forms of contemporary art. Simultaneously, with the rise of new digital technologies and the recent proliferation of image-led networks, photography has become even more ubiquitous and democratised for people across the globe as a tool for both creativity and communication.

The Photographers’ Gallery is immensely proud of the role it has played in this transformation, particularly in the UK, by exhibiting some of the world’s most ground-breaking and celebrated photographers and providing a dedicated space where photographic debate and learning through and with photography can flourish.

It seems especially fitting to be partnering with Sotheby’s for this timely auction as we jointly celebrate 50 years of championing photography in the UK, and we are immensely grateful to them for supporting this initiative. We are also truly indebted to all of the artists and benefactors who have so generously contributed the works you see in this section. Without them we genuinely could not deliver our vision ‘to stimulate public understanding and deeper engagement with photography and its value to society”. Their support of the Gallery is also a testimony to the enduring legacy of Sue Davies, who sadly died in 2020. Her tireless championing of the medium and close relationships with photographers she worked so hard for is reflected by the readiness of so many of those included in this auction to donate.

By taking part in the auction and bidding on these works, you will help secure the future of The Photographers’ Gallery at this pivotal moment in our history – by allowing us to continue to stage our ground-breaking exhibition programme, as well as carry out our many education activities and provide support to both established and emerging talent. Thank you for your precious support.

- Brett Rogers OBE
Director, The Photographers’ Gallery

Main Image: Sunset Junction, 2018 © Alex Prager