Top 10 photography exhibitions in London

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

Tomoko Yoneda at Grimaldi Gavin

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.

1

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. 

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Grimaldi Gavin Until Friday August 7 2015 Free
2

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.

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London Metropolitan Archives Monday July 6 2015 - Thursday October 8 2015 Free
3

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.

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Science Museum Until Sunday September 13 2015
4

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. WHY I LOVE… AUDREY HEPBURN

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National Portrait Gallery Until Sunday October 18 2015
5

Rodin, Brancusi, Moore: Through the Sculptor’s Lens

Photography played an important part in the practices of these three great sculptors capturing works that are now lost, destroyed or were never realised. Auguste Rodin employed a number of photographers as a means to not only publicise his work but also to study his work in progress. Constantin Brancusi considered an image of his work far superior to any written analysis, thus allowing his work to speak through photography. Henry Moore’s photos that form an extensive catalogue of his productive career have rarely been exhibited and here offer an insight to his preparatory process. 

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Waddington Custot Until Saturday July 11 2015 Free
6

Ishiuchi Miyako: Frida

The extraordinary artist, Frida Khalo is best known for her unbridled, often haunting self-portraits and her unmistakable style, oh and unibrow. This photographic exhibition by the celebrated Japanese photographer forms a uniquely intimate portrayal of a woman tormented by disability through the documentation of rare personal effects. Khalo’s husband, Diego Riviera kept her possessions in a sealed room after her death in 1954, with instructions the room shouldn’t be opened until after he himself died. It wasn’t until 2004 that the Museo Frida Khalo decided to catalogue the items, commissioning Miyako to document over 300 objects. 

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Michael Hoppen Gallery Until Saturday July 11 2015 Free
7

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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Atlas Gallery Until Saturday July 4 2015 Free
8

Captain Linnaeus Tripe: Photographer of India and Burma, 1852-1860

Documenting archaeological sites, monuments and landscapes of India and Burma, Captain Linnaeus Tripe gave western society a rare and unique view of these far off lands in the 19th-century. As pat of the V&A’s India Festival, this showcase of over 60 photographs reveals how Tripe pioneered the possibilities of photography to create captivating as well as educating images.

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V&A Until Sunday October 11 2015 Free
9

The Kinks: Photographs And Artefacts

Photographs by Bruce Fleming, Val Wilmer, Bent Rej, Dezo Hoffmann, Mike Leale and Barrie Wentzell are brought together for this exhibition that celebrates the golden period of The Kinks.

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Snap Galleries Until Saturday August 8 2015 Free
10

Beneath the Surface

Somerset House’s riverfront position is the inspiration for this, er, immersive exhibition of rarely-seen photographs from the V&A’s collection. Among the 200 works on show, you’ll see William Strudwick’s shots along the Thames from the 1860s and David Kronig’s Whistler-esque images of the river, taken almost a century later, as well as more recent works by Stephen Gill and installation artists Ackroyd & Harvey. The show opens to coincide with the Photo London art fair (May 21-24), but you have until end of the summer to dive in.  

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Somerset House Until Monday August 24 2015
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Comments

17 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.

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 ?! 

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.

Giovanni Fanuele
Giovanni Fanuele

Bello e interessante! Anche la traduzione in Italiano è migliore della media. Bravi, complimenti. Saluti e auguri. From Brescia, Italy

Denn
Denn

This section seems like an afterthough - never seems to be comprhensive / updated enough.

Peter
Peter

There is fantastic exhibition of the ARENA GROUP of photographers at the Menier gallery, Southwark, Opened yesterday. Very moving & beautiful.

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 ! 

Jenny
Jenny

The Contemporary Art Society, based in Clerkenwell, is putting on a show by John Stezaker, Deutsche Borse 2012 winner, from 4 September. Not to be missed!

geoff
geoff

I only counted 9!

Andy S
Andy S

@geoff 10 now !! :-)