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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

RAR Carnival Against the Nazis Leeds, 1981. © Syd Shelton

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.


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

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

Burden of Proof: The Construction of Visual Evidence

Photography has proved to be the silent witness in many crimes. Providing factual evidence since the late 1800s, here, eleven case studies will be presented spanning the invention of metric photography with Alphonse Bertillon's sepia prints of crime scenes that assisted police investigations, judges and juries through to the reconstruction of a 2012 drone attack in Miranshah, Pakistan.

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Photographers' Gallery , Soho Until Sunday January 10 2016

Syd Shelton: Rock Against Racism

This show brings together Syd Shelton’s incredible photographic documents of the activist movement Rock Against Racism (RAR) that used music to fight racism. During the late 70s when the National Front were gaining support, RAR resisted such fascist attitudes by attracting large diverse audiences to their gigs that showcased reggae and punk bands on the same stage. Shelton not only photographed The Clash, Elvis Costello and The Specials but also the audiences at RAR events, demonstrations and the history-making RAR Carnival 1 at Victoria Park, London in 1978.

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Rivington Place , Shoreditch Until Saturday December 5 2015

Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Once again you can expect to see remarkable feats of astrophotography at the seventh Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition. It’s a chance to see magical views of both our own night sky and of galaxies far, far away. The winning spacey visions come from dozens of professional and amateur snappers in various categories including ‘Planets, Comets and Asteroids’, ‘Stars and Nebulae’, ‘Galaxies’ and ‘Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year’ for under-16s.

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Royal Observatory , Greenwich Until Wednesday December 23 2015

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Now in its fifty-first year, the renowned and celebrated annual wildlife photography competition exhibition returns to the Natural History Museum with images of the most extraordinary species on the planet, captured by professional and amateur photographers. 

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Natural History Museum , Brompton Until Sunday April 10 2016

Candida Höfer: Memory

Candida Höfer's immense photographs depict opulent and grandiose empty interiors of cultural institutions and palaces. Here, she presents ten large-formatworks from her new series ‘Memory’ that document the public spaces of St Petersburg.

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Ben Brown Fine Arts , Mayfair Until Friday November 27 2015

Cy Twombly: Photographs

You know those annoying, clichéd complaints about modern art – that it looks like something knocked out in ten minutes, or that it could be done by a child? Well, if you’re ever making a counter-argument, then Cy Twombly (1928-2011) is absolutely the worst artist you could invoke. 

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Gagosian Davies St , Mayfair Until Saturday December 12 2015

London Dust

German photographer Rut Blees Luxemburg has lived, worked and made art about London since the 1990s. This new series focuses on the marked differences between the CGI images of London on giant billboards promoting new office towers in the City and the dusty reality of the streets where these ads are displayed. Drawing attention to a shiny new dream of London, she raises questions about what is being ‘cleansed’ in the process.  

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Museum of London , Smithfield Until Sunday January 10 2016

We Are London

Bringing us bang up to date, this small display of photos by Matt Crossick and David Parry shows contemporary Londoners at work and play – getting angry on a trade union march, getting messy for Holi, and getting up early to bag the best blooms at Columbia Road flower market. It’s a joyous snapshot that’ll make you want to shout ‘merci!’ to Monsieur de St. Croix for dragging his crazy photo machine across the Channel all those years ago.

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Museum of London , Smithfield Until Wednesday December 23 2015
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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 ! :-)


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 !