Photography in London

Get in the picture with our guide to the city's best photography exhibitions and galleries

© David Parry

Addicted to Instagram or permanently attached to your SLR? Even if your camera roll is totally empty, you'll find a way to appreciate London photography; we have the widest variety of styles in some of the best exhibitions at the most beautiful galleries. Find them in a flash with our guide to photography in London.

Art

This week's best photography shows

Don't miss any of the biggest and best exhibitions of photography this season

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Environmental Photographer of the Year

Coming soon: thoughtprovoking topics captured in stunning photos

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Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon

Coming soon: The National Portrait Gallery celebrate the screen starlet through exquisite photographs

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Thomas Struth Interview

We talk to the artist about his current show at Marian Goodman Gallery

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Latest photography reviews

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Beneath the Surface

Given the weighty triumvirate of sponsors behind this exhibition of rarely-displayed and unseen photographic works from the V&A archives – the V&A Museum, Photo London fair and Somerset House have all teamed up – you might expect an impressive selection of weird and wonderful images that offer a compelling glimpse into the over 500,000-strong collection held by the institution. And the timespan covered is not insubstantial: there’s everything from early photograms right up to digitally-manipulated works. Unfortunately, this breadth of scope does little to bring the otherwise unambitious exhibition to life. ‘Beneath the Surface’ proves a thematic red herring, and there is a sense that more specific themes were perhaps considered, then abandoned. For instance, there are dozens of photos of waterways, and street scenes of London, but no story to bring them together. So why not just make the exhibition about water? Or the city’s topography? Or anything to serve as narrative glue? As a shopfront for the V&A’s photography collection, it fails to impress. There are some fantastic works on display here. The prosaically-named ‘Trees in Summer and Winter’ series by Henry Irving (1900) are quietly powerful. Ackroyd & Harvey’s huge ‘living grass’ photograph ‘Mother and Child’ (1998) – in which light-sensitive chlorophyll is manipulated to create shadow and light – has a fuzzy Gerhard Richter-ish quality that captivates. Photos taken by Nigel Shafran for the ‘V&A Annual Report 2012/13’

Time Out says
  • 2 out of 5 stars
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Art

Tomoko Yoneda: Beyond Memory

‘We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness.’ These prescient words are spoken in a dream to Winston Smith, the protagonist in George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’. Later in the novel he discovers (spoiler alert!) that the place without darkness is not a place of infinite sun but instead the Ministry of Love: a building with no windows – there is no darkness without light – where he is eventually tortured in Room 101. This quotation is also the title of a 2014 book of interiors and landscape photographs by Japanese-born, London-based photographer Tomoko Yoneda, some of which are included in this exhibition of her works from the last 14 years. Like Orwell’s dystopian tale, Yoneda’s photographs allude to the horrors of history without showing them; terror permeates everything but has no human face. A swelling seascape marks the spot where Nazi scientist Josef Mengele drowned at a vacation resort in Brazil; a young forest is where the Battle of the Somme was fought; an empty house was once owned by General Wang Shu-Ming during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. These after-the-event images are the sites of power struggles and ideological atrocities spanning both World Wars, the Second Sino-Japanese War and the aftermath of the Cold War. Another comparison could be made with the ‘landscape of mood’ paintings by late nineteenth-century Russian painter Isaac Levitan, whose seemingly bucolic scenes pulsate with traces of destructive human influence, though any actual

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Art

Victorian London in Photographs

Rapacious, unchecked development, a growing gulf between the richest and poorest and a realisation that modern life is damaging to mental health. Anyway, enough about London in 2015: here are some photos of dead people. There are plenty of contemporary resonances in these images of London from 1839 to 1901. One thing above all else drove Victorian photographers, and saw their technology evolve incredibly quickly: change. Almost all these pictures – many of them stunningly technically accomplished as well as being fascinating documents – reflect a city and a society whose pace of change is both thrilling and terrifying. So we have the Society for Photographing Relics of Old London, who couldn’t get the plates in their cameras fast enough to record the historic buildings getting pulled down around them. There was no legislation to protect architecture, so they were about all there was in terms of awareness-raising. At the same time, photographers strove to reveal the social iniquities beneath the Victorian dream of progress: the appalling slums just streets away from fashionable thoroughfares; the children cast aside by their parents; the homeless, the destitute, the maimed and the mad. Most moving is a series of portraits of inmates of the Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum. Literally shorn of luxuriant Victorian hairdos and dressed with institutional severity, these men and women look startlingly contemporary. The unusually close-up portraiture (presumably they had little choice)

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Art

Revelations: Experiments in Photography

‘Chickens scared by a torpedo’ may not be Eadweard Muybridge’s most popular work, but it’s definitely the one with the best title. In the 1870s the British photo pioneer broke new ground with his famous study of horses at full gallop. Now his shots of cluckers losing their cool are in an exhibition of science-related photos spanning the last 170 years. There are trippy colour photomicrographs of mica (1908) from Arthur Clive Banfield, plus nineteenth and early twentieth-century telephotographic space shots, up-close images of the effects of magnetic fields, and the captivating ‘smoke studies’ by Étienne-Jules Marey that influenced aerodynamics. Baffling are Carl Strüwe’s microscopic images of water fleas, which bear an uncanny resemblance to the bison of the Altamira cave paintings. How extraordinary to look back a century or more and see manifest the human desire to understand phenomena both incomprehensibly big and inconceivably small. And this is only the first room of the exhibition. Room two is dedicated to works from twentieth-century artists responding to early science-focused photography. Bauhaus artist László Moholy-Nagy’s photograms do away with single-point perspective, while motion studies by influential architecture photographer Berenice Abbott exemplify her belief that artists should help make science accessible to all. There are some exceptional works in room three, too. Trevor Paglen’s faraway shots of American military ‘black spots’ are clever, unsettling

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Top 10 photo shows

Art

Tomoko Yoneda: Beyond Memory

‘We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness.’ These prescient words are spoken in a dream to Winston Smith, the protagonist in George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’. Later in the novel he discovers (spoiler alert!) that the place without darkness is not a place of infinite sun but instead the Ministry of Love: a building with no windows – there is no darkness without light – where he is eventually tortured in Room 101. This quotation is also the title of a 2014 book of interiors and landscape photographs by Japanese-born, London-based photographer Tomoko Yoneda, some of which are included in this exhibition of her works from the last 14 years. Like Orwell’s dystopian tale, Yoneda’s photographs allude to the horrors of history without showing them; terror permeates everything but has no human face. A swelling seascape marks the spot where Nazi scientist Josef Mengele drowned at a vacation resort in Brazil; a young forest is where the Battle of the Somme was fought; an empty house was once owned by General Wang Shu-Ming during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. These after-the-event images are the sites of power struggles and ideological atrocities spanning both World Wars, the Second Sino-Japanese War and the aftermath of the Cold War. Another comparison could be made with the ‘landscape of mood’ paintings by late nineteenth-century Russian painter Isaac Levitan, whose seemingly bucolic scenes pulsate with traces of destructive human influence, though any actual

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Read more
Art

Victorian London in Photographs

Rapacious, unchecked development, a growing gulf between the richest and poorest and a realisation that modern life is damaging to mental health. Anyway, enough about London in 2015: here are some photos of dead people. There are plenty of contemporary resonances in these images of London from 1839 to 1901. One thing above all else drove Victorian photographers, and saw their technology evolve incredibly quickly: change. Almost all these pictures – many of them stunningly technically accomplished as well as being fascinating documents – reflect a city and a society whose pace of change is both thrilling and terrifying.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Read more
Art

Revelations: Experiments in Photography

The invention of photography helped Victorian scientists to capture things too small and too fast for the human eye to see. So it’s apt this Science Museum show should focus on the mutually inspiring terrain of scientific study and artistic endeavour. Bringing together the early photomicrography experiments of British inventor William Henry Fox Talbot with contemporary artists including Idris Khan and Clare Strand, ‘Revelations: Experiments in Photography’ reveals the everlasting aesthetic stimulus of early photographic techniques.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Art

Ernst Haas: Reconstructing London

Shaftesbury Avenue and Regent Street are instantly recognisable in Austrian photographer Ernst Haas’s images of late-1940s London. His top-hatted City gents, though, seem to hail from a different century entirely. Haas (1921-86), then a newbie photojournalist, made his mark with these shots of the city being reconstructed after WWII. In a series focusing on Speaker’s Corner, he also documents a multicultural society in formation.

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This week's best photography shows

Coming soon…

Art

Christina Broom: Soldiers and Suffragettes

Considered the first female press photographer, Christina Broom took to the Edwardian London streets documenting daily routines and notable events. From First World war soldiers enjoying Christmas lunch and suffragettes campaigning for women’s right to Oxford Street bustling with horse drawn carriages and the Oxford and Cambridge boat race, Broom’s candid approach, captured pivotal moments of cultural history. She peddled her photographic postcards from a stall at the gates of the Royal Mews in London, a choice spot not least for the fact she was often given unprecedented access to many Royal occasions. Here, previously unseen photographs from private collections will be brought together with negative plates, postcards and personal memorabilia.

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Art

Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon

The waiflike muse of Givenchy, not only captivated the fashion world but also the big screen. This summer the National Portrait Gallery celebrate the British actress, dancer and humanitarian worker with an exhibition of exquisite and rarely seen photographs. Hepburn radiated elegance and sophistication thanks no doubt to her European noble heritage, but also managed to set aside her international stardom and iconic status to work as a Unicef ambassador from 1988 until her death in 1993. Chronicling the multi-award winning screen legend’s rise to fame are family snaps of Hepburn as a young ballerina, portraits by photographic greats including Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton and Norman Parkinson and behind-the-scenes images from the set of Sabrina by Mark Shaw.

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Head to our exhibitions calendar

London photography galleries

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Photographers' Gallery

The Photographers' Gallery's six-storey premises on Ramillies Street has reopened after a full facelift. Original plans for the new site were for a striking, angular structure with giant floor-to-ceiling lightwells grasping for the sky. After a fiscal wake-up call (the budget was cut nearly in half to £9 million), the Irish architects O'Donnell+Tuomey returned with a handsome refit and recladding of an old brick building, plus what amounts to an extravagant loft conversion, adding two whole storeys and just one thin sliver of those firmament-reaching windows. What hasn't been lost is any of the interior space. The upper floors boast two airy new galleries, while a bookshop, print sales room and café have been dug from the ground floor and basement levels. In fact, the climb-down from landmark building to tasteful conversion is no great loss, given the building's move to an unprepossessing corner plot in a back alley south of Oxford Street. The Photographers' Gallery has kept faith in its location, however tricky and inhospitable their new plot on the vaguely insalubrious Ramilies Street might seem. Indeed, the new site maintains the gallery's roots in Soho (just) and will hopefully come to be as embedded here as it was in its former location on Great Newport Street, which, despite its inelegant, warren-like unsuitability for showing great photography, will also live long in the memory.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Michael Hoppen Gallery

Michael Hoppen Gallery, set up in 1993, exhibits exclusively fine art photography. The second floor is dedicated to high quality contemporary work from well known photographers such as Daido Moriyama, through rising stars such as Desiree Dolron to edgier, newly discovered talents. Superbly produced artists' books, some published in house, are available to buy from the gallery.  

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Atlas Gallery

Atlas came of age in nineties Hoxton, when the area was still a scruffy, well-kept hipster secret but is now based in the swankier environs of Marylebone. The gallery specialises primarily in classic and modern twentieth-century vintage photography, photojournalism and fashion, in addition to representing contemporary photographers.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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V&A Photographs Gallery

An early pioneer in collecting and exhibiting photography, the V&A now boasts a permanent gallery dedicated to the medium. The inaugural exhibition charts the history of the photography with a display of beautiful and remarkable images taken between 1839 and the 1960s. Two further spaces are devoted to exploring the work of key photographic figures such as Julia-Margaret Cameron and Henri-Cartier Bresson. Temporary displays, primarily showcasing contemporary photography, will be shown in the V&A’s existing photographs gallery.

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Comments

2 comments
Ron A
Ron A

The problem with most of these exhibitions is that they are not open on sundays late.London has a parking problem called traffic wardens, for people that want to go to places by car ( Rightly so or streets would be jammed). For family groups and others that need to go by car the only day it is possible to park free because councils dont want to pay wardens extra and companys are closed is sunday.So open sunday get more people to view.