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Top 10 photography exhibitions in London

Discover a world beyond Instagram at the city's best current and upcoming photography shows

© Saul Leiter

London's cultural menu doesn't start and finish with paint on canvas – experience a whole new world of artistic awesomeness at these blockbuster photography exhibitions, taking place at venues including The Photographers' Gallery and Getty Images Gallery. Or head to our Photography in London hub to find all the latest photography exhibitions and reviews.

1

Lee Miller: A Woman's War

The Imperial War Museum's major autumn 2015 photography exhibition focuses on American fashion model, surrealist muse and photographer Lee Miller (1907-77) – who was one of only four female professional photographers to be accredited as US official war correspondents. The show considers Miller's vision of women and her own changing role in front of and behind the camera, as she moved across continents and between countries before, during and after WWII.

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Imperial War Museum , Kennington Until Sunday April 24 2016
2

Saul Leiter: Retrospective

It seems an irony that Saul Leiter always considered himself more a painter than a photographer. Firstly, because it was the latter that made his name. Secondly, because he was pretty bad at the former. Leiter moved to New York in the 1940s, soaked up the abstract expressionist scene, and occasionally showed his twitchy, garish, overworked paintings in galleries in the East Village. Fortunately, alongside the art exhibitions, he also visited a show of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photography in 1947.

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Photographers' Gallery , Soho Until Sunday April 3 2016
3

Julia Margaret Cameron

Critics' choice

We take it for granted today but when photography was first invented, it must have been extraordinary to witness a moment in time captured forever as a static image. When you look at Julia Margaret Cameron’s photographs from more than 150 years ago, you are reminded why photography was, and still is, so enchanting. 

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V&A , Brompton Until Sunday February 14 2016
4

Alec Soth: Gathered Leaves

For his first major UK exhibition, the American photographer presents works from four of his formidable projects: Sleeping by the Mississippi, Niagara, Broken Manual and Songbook. With his inquisitive eye, Soth captures glimpsed moments and evocative portraits in timeless black-and-white images and stunning colour shots,  forming a vision of modern American life.

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Science Museum , Brompton Until Monday March 28 2016
5

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize

Offering a kaleidoscopic peek at global photo-portrait talent, this yearly prize is judged anonymously, so it’s a mixed bag of established and rising artists. Subjects range from celebrities – Benedict Cumberbatch photographed for Out magazine, Peter Capaldi for the Sunday Times – to regular folk, such as Birgit Püve’s captivating portrait of Estonian woman Fagira D Morti, and the £12,000-winning portrait by David Stewart, who captured his twentysomething daughter and her jumper-clad friends in ‘Five Girls’.

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National Portrait Gallery , Leicester Square Until Sunday February 21 2016
6

Mario Cravo Neto: A Serene Expectation of Light

Mario Cravo Neto (1947-2009) was a highly influential Brazilian photographer. Having originally trained as a sculptor, he moved into photography after a car accident in the ’70s left him bedridden for a year. Of his images – which focus on the spiritual practices of the Bahia region of Brazil, tracing their origins to West Africa – Cravo Neto said: ‘It is simply a religious position… that I want to adopt.’ 

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Rivington Place , Shoreditch Until Saturday April 2 2016
7

Mariele Neudecker: Plastic Vanitas

Mariele Neudecker’s photographs of seemingly ephemeral and unrelated plastic objects – hair rollers, drinks bottles, kitchen utensils, all collected during a residency at Museum of Design in Plastics – make reference to vanitas, an eighteenth-century genre of still-life painting. Framed within this tradition, the German artist’s images take on new and unexpected meanings, while also commenting on more modern-day notions of consumerism.

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The Nunnery , Bow Until Sunday March 27 2016
8

Noh Suntag: Dance of Order

Korean artist Noh Suntag examines the history of his fractured homeland through a series of photographic works. Humorous – if bleakly so – these images reveal the clashing of ideologies between North and South Korea, and their strange co-existence.

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43 Inverness Street , Camden Town Saturday February 13 2016 - Saturday March 12 2016
9

New Builds

This four-person show explores the complex creation of photographic images today – including Daniel Gordon's photos of still lifes, which are shots of sets made up of photographic images given a onceover in Photoshop to give them a heightened effect.

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Josh Lilley , Fitzrovia Until Thursday March 3 2016
10

Nick Danziger: Eleven Women Facing War

In 2001, the acclaimed photographer and filmmaker Nick Danziger took pictures of 11 women who lived in the major conflict zones of the time, as part of an Internation Committee of the Red Cross study. Ten years later, Danziger set out to track down each woman, in an endeavour that took him as far and wide as Kosovo and Sierra Leone and forms the basis of this exhibition at the IWM.

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Imperial War Museum , Kennington Until Sunday April 24 2016
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Comments

13 comments
greta b
greta b

Also, no Kate Moss photos at the Photographers 2015 exhibitions.

Snapper C
Snapper C

@greta b Yeah I wondered where those photographs were too! Thought I'd somehow missed them.


greta b
greta b

The Photographer's Gallery is not in SoHo: it's a few meters off Oxford Street, at the end, near the Circus. Not SoHo.

Iain S
Iain S

@greta b Soho is bordered by Oxford Street and Regent Street. The Photographer's Gallery is well within those boundaries.

Andy S
Andy S

I look forward each year to the World Press Photography Competition award winners exhibition which is at the South Bank, Royal Festival Hall in November. This is one of the photographic highlights of the year for me. 

The press photos are haunting, tremendously powerful and remind us of the relative safety we live in. Some are just too sad to contemplate for long and you are forced to shift your gaze or turn away for a moment.

The western Press seem to be so unconnected however to these traumatic events. You feel their Photographers take some snaps and just walk away, which they do.

I think I only read of one instance where a press Photographer tried to do something about the situation and set about helping the family who had been caught up in the crossfire.  Presumably there are others, but these are the exceptions. 

It reminds me of western international clothing chains doing virtually nothing about the collapsing factories in Bangladesh, where their sub-contractors lost 1,100 people. The unsafe practices & ridiculous, laughable 'salaries' carry on and genetically identical people to you and me, my family in the UK/EU and the developing world, continue to die and work for little or no salary. 

What do you think, or feel ?! 

Jonny S
Jonny S

I recommend watching the documentary McCullin about a British photographer. This man also mentions the "snap & run" culture of many photographers, but spent his own life staying in areas of crisis for days and weeks, trying to tell the truth with his photography.

Andy S
Andy S

@Nikolay L Beautiful shots, I would like to see more people in your photos and controversy ! :-)

helen
helen

World Press Photography Competition 2013, Royal Festival Hall , Southbank Two uncles carry their dead nephews in their arms, followed by an army of angry villagers, desperate for justice. A dead body of a suspected collaborator is dragged through the streets of Gaza City. The corpse of a Sudan Armed Forces soldier floats in an oily pond after a clash with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Looking at these harrowing photos it can be hard to believe that they are images of real life. And even harder to think there is someone one the other side of the camera, risking their life at times, taking the shot. The competition contains a combination of portraits, character studies, daily life, news and nature. But the majority seem to fall in the contemporary issues category, demonstrating conflicts of war, drugs, gangs and death. The exhibition comes with a warning for a reason. How the judges narrowed over 100,000 photos into this 55 exhibition amazes me, but it is clear why they are chosen. Though there are some strange additions, like the Danish photographer’s depiction of his family life on holiday in Italy, falling into the Daily Life category. His naked wife sits on the toilet yawning while a toddler rifles through the bin next to her. Another child is asleep in the next room. I’m not sure I’d be happy if I was her. The gallery has two separate sections which left it feeling slightly disjointed and would be easy to miss one whole part of the exhibition entirely. However, each photo is well annotated with just enough description of the event to draw the viewer into the scene without boring them. If you are of a nervous disposition, are already feeling depressed or emotional and have diminished faith in humanity- I would not visit. It is not an uplifting or ‘fun’ exhibition- but it will make you appreciate your own safe bubble of life. And make you want to buy a decent camera.

Andy S
Andy S

@Paul Genesis was a truly amazing exhibition, but I was disappointed at the lack of comments or descriptive anecdotes next to the photos by Sebastiao Salgado. It wasn't as good as his exhibition at the Barbican !