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Top ten photography exhibitions in London

Discover a world beyond Instagram at the best current and upcoming photography exhibitions in London

© Dorothy Bohm, 'Sixties London' at the Jewish Museum

London's art menu doesn't start and finish with paint on canvas – experience a whole new world of artistic awesomeness at our top ten photography exhibitions in London. From historical sweeps of beautiful images to daring and revealing shows of worldly wonders, London’s photography shows offer a full-exposure of art and thought. Read our full guide to photography in London for more photo news, features and reviews. 

RECOMMENDED: Check out the 40 best photos of London ever taken

Top photography exhibitions in London

Travel Photographer of the Year

You can look at this annual award for the best of the past year’s travel photography in two ways. The first, perhaps cynical way, is to thank these show-offs a bunch for reminding you of all the amazing destinations you spectacularly failed to make it to last year, or indeed any year. 

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University Of Greenwich , Greenwich Until Sunday September 4 2016

William Eggleston Portraits

Legendary Memphis photographer William Eggleston has created a whole genre of psychologically ambiguous Americana, much of it centred on apparently mundane bits of his home town. I expected that isolating his portraits from the rest of his work wouldn’t work. How would they fare, without all those existential landscapes and unanswered questions to problematise them? 

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National Portrait Gallery , Leicester Square Until Sunday October 23 2016

Made you Look: Dandyism and Black Masculinity

The first image of this show features a man wearing tartan tights, Regency-style heels, a large hat, a cardigan with sleeves pulled over his hands and a gold chain across his bare chest. All at once, he looks strong, fragile and way cooler than you could ever hope to be. Curated by writer Ekow Eshun, the exhibition gathers photographs from as far back as 1904 and from the four corners of the globe to chart the journey of the black dandy. 

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Photographers' Gallery , Soho Until Sunday September 25 2016

Wolfgang Tillmans

When Wolfgang Tillmans won the Turner Prize in 2000 it felt like a statement about the future: he was the first photographer to win it, and the first non-UK artist. His club kids and glowing foliage seemed casual and recognisable. Superficially his photography hasn’t changed that much: this show features plenty of Tillmans tropes: apparently snapped portraits, giant inkjet prints of gorgeous blazing colour. 

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Maureen Paley , Bethnal Green Until Sunday July 31 2016

Painting with Light

Nineteenth Century British painting wasn’t exactly the edgiest moment in art history. But this show considers the period afresh by examining how it responded to the arrival of photography. And guess what? It hit the ground running. Two Scotsmen are to thank for painting’s first dialogue with photography. David Octavius Hillwas commissioned to paint the ‘Disruption Portrait’ (1843-66), a document of the rebel assembly that founded the Free Church of Scotland. 

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Tate Britain , Westminster Until Sunday September 25 2016

Raphael Albert: Black and Beautiful

The women who feature in ‘Miss Black and Beautiful’ are all toothy smiles, sultry looks and sassy poses. Presented here are three decades of photographs taken by the late Raphael Albert, who documented west London’s black beauty pageant scene from the 1960s to the ’90s. The archival display includes rarely seen photos and newspaper cuttings from the time, one of which begins: ‘Until a few short years ago being a “good wife and mother” was one of the only lauded positions available for women.’

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Rivington Place , Shoreditch Until Saturday September 24 2016

Aida Silvestri: Unsterile Clinic

On the second floor of Autograph ABP is a room filled with pain: female pain – something that photographer Aida Silvestri thinks we should all be paying much more attention to. The ‘Unsterile Clinic’ project sees Silvestri interview and photograph women in London who are among the 125 million living globally with the effects of female genital mutilation.

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Rivington Place , Shoreditch Until Saturday September 17 2016

Fox Talbot: Dawn of the Photograph

Early photography can be hard to fathom, and not just because of all those people in top hats and capes trying and failing to keep still during ten-minute exposure times. The infancy of the medium in the 1830s is a confusing whirl of near-contemporaries, all messing about with lenses and chemicals in a bid to capture the fleeting world. A matter of national pride, who did what, and when, is debated even today. 

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Until Sun Sep 11

Edward Barber

Edward Barber was a major chronicler of the anti-nuclear marches, demos and rallies of the 1980s. Over 30 years later, these pictures offer a glimpse into a turbulent decade of political protest. This display places a focus on the folk art that came out of the movement and the vital role of women in places like RAF Greenham Common.

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Imperial War Museum , Kennington Until Sunday September 4 2016

Unseen City: Photos by Martin Parr

It’s a swell time to be a Martin Parr fan. A major show curated by the London-born photographer is about to open at Barbican (see page 96). You can also see his work as part of Tate’s ‘Performing for the Camera’, or even hike up to West Yorkshire, where the ‘king of the crowd’ has a retrospective at the Hepworth Wakefield. Just down the road from the Barbican, it’s possible to take in the fruits of his labour as the City of London’s photographer-in-residence, a post he’s held since 2013. 

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Guildhall Art Gallery , Mansion House Until Sunday July 31 2016
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Next up: the best art shows in London

Top ten art exhibitions in London

Fancy seeing an art show this weekend but no idea where to go? Well look no further. You can't go wrong if you head down to one of our ten favourite art exhibitions taking place in the capital right now.

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By: Time Out London Art

Comments

14 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 !