How, one might wonder, has a city as large and culturally important as London not had a proper photography fair before? After all, Paris Photo—both in its original city and in Los Angeles—is a huge success, and the interest in photography as an art form seems to be bigger than ever. The city had to get on the bandwagon at some point, and now it has, with the inaugural Photo London, the largest photography fair in the city. Some 200 galleries applied for the 70 places, and the fair features exhibitors from 20 countries. Held at the beautiful Somerset House (recently home to the Pick Me Up graphic design festival), Photo London aims to gather both established galleries and new talents. Below we outline some standouts in the debut edition.
Kaveh Golestan: Prostitute series
On display downstairs at Photo London is Iranian documentary photographer Kaveh Golestan’s “Prostitute” series. The collection of 61 vintage photographs taken from 1975 to 1977 show women working in Tehran’s former red light district, the Citadel of Shahr-e No. The series is a fascinating insight into a lost world, and into changing social mores—the Citadel was set on fire just before the victory of the revolution in Iran in 1979, and was later demolished under the Ayatollah Khomeini. Thus, these photos serve not only as works of art, but a record of buried Iranian history.
Rut Blees Luxemburg: The Teaser
Commissioned specifically for the fair, Luxemburg’s “The Teaser” takes over the courtyard of Somerset House with its 10 light-cube boxes and 10 framed lights. They may look like oversized children’s building blocks, but the lit-up boxes tell an urban love story by philosopher Alexander García Düttman (who previously worked with Luxemburg on the photography and literature series “The Academic Year”) and lend a playful, contemporary touch to Somerset House’s stone yard that sets the tone for the fair.
Sarah Choo Jing at A.I.
London’s A.I., a platform for emerging artists, showcased Singaporean photographer Sarah Choo Jing’s dark, moody photos of city life. Her “It was a Tuesday like any other Tuesday”—shot from her window in London—is a composite of multiple images taken over the course of one night that makes a voyeur of the viewer. Jing’s work is captivating—and an example of how commercial art fairs can really shine the spotlight on young artists.
Dominic Hawgood: Under the Influence at RCA
“Rise Up You Are Free,” one of the photos from last year’s BJP International Photography Award winner Dominic Hawgood’s “Under the Influence” series, is on display in the Royal College of Art stall in Photo London’s Discovery section. The striking, bold image is lit up and leaning against the wall, sharing the space with works by other RCA alumni. Hawgood, Tereza Zelenkova and Joanna Piotrowska of the RCA are all nominated for the Magnum Photo and Photo London Graduate Award, the winner of which will be announced during the fair.
Marianna Rothen at Kasher | Potamkin
New York-based Canadian artist Marianna Rothen’s images of women could be stills from 1970s and ’80s films. Her subjects are seen in stylized environments that seem oddly familiar, until you realize that it’s the artist’s attention to detail and ability to capture an air of nostalgia that makes her pieces look so authentic and recognizable.
Photo London is on now through 24 May 2015.
Images by Cajsa Carlson