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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

'Strange and Familiar' at the Barbican. © Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

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.

Top photography exhibitions in London

1

Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers

Critics' choice

This is an exhibition for anyone who has ever queued for a bus, stared longingly into a cake shop window, blown bubbles just for the fun of it, picknicked in the car in the rain, been in love, worn a hat, walked down a high street… If you don’t recognise yourself in that list, or in the photographs in this show, then I’m calling you out, you droid. 

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Barbican Centre , Barbican Until Sunday June 19 2016
2

Paul Strand: Photography and Film for the 20th Century

Critics' choice

Goodness: It’s a quality you probably appreciate in your mum. But in an artist? We’re taught from an early age to admire art’s bad boys and girls, from Caravaggio via Picasso to Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. They have the coolest lives and make the best copy. But the photographer Paul Strand (1890-1976) was, unerringly, a good man. And his images, of New York City streets, remote rural communities, even crocuses in his back yard, are inseparable from his humanity. 

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V&A , Brompton Until Sunday July 3 2016
3

Vogue 100: A Century of Style

Critics' choice

Fashion may be fickle, but the fashion photographer’s lens is also a mirror. ‘Vogue 100: A Century of Style’ is as much a reflection of a hundred years of our history as it is a celebration of the original glossy. Born in 1916 during WWI, when shipping the US magazine became impossible, British Vogue has always been more than a fashion mag. 

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National Portrait Gallery , Leicester Square Until Sunday May 22 2016
4

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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Science Museum , Brompton Until Sunday September 11 2016
5

Deutsche Börse Photography Prize

There’s a theme to this year’s Deutsche Börse Photography Prize, and that is that photography isn’t really able to deal with the contemporary world. A lot of what is in this show of the four shortlisted artists speaks about the unseen or the implied, what is beyond pictorial representation. 

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Photographers' Gallery , Soho Until Sunday July 3 2016
6

Performing for the Camera

Critics' choice

As a pre-art school teenager, I was obsessed with Yves Klein’s ‘Leap into the Void’ (1960). The photograph – which shows the artist flinging himself off a 15-foot wall, arms outstretched, the concrete waiting for him below – felt wild, brazen and dangerous. It was everything I loved about art. But as this show reveals, the picture is actually a piece of composite trickery.

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Tate Modern , South Bank Until Sunday June 12 2016
7

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
8

Otherworlds: Visions of our Solar System

Space. To go, boldly or otherwise, isn’t really an option for most of us, despite the advent of contactless TfL payment . But we have sent countless craft, probes and bits of hardware, as well as the odd mammal, into the heavens. And they have returned with or beamed back screeds of technical information – now held in the archives of various space agencies. It’s this data that artist and writer Michael Benson sifts through, taking individual frames of often grainy black-and-white footage to come up with the seamless colour montages of celestial goings-on in this show. 

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Natural History Museum , Brompton Until Sunday May 15 2016
9

Magical Surfaces: The Uncanny in Contemporary Photography

Like its lofty cousin the ‘sublime’, the ‘uncanny’ is difficult to describe – and many great minds have tried. Sigmund Freud was one of them. In his 1919 essay ‘Das Unheimliche’, he famously calls the uncanny a thing that is at once familiar and unfamiliar, with this dissonance stirring up unease in the viewer. 

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Parasol Unit , Hoxton Until Sunday June 19 2016
10

Dennis Morris: PiL - First Issue to Metal Box

The British artist and designer Dennis Morris worked on the album sleeves for Public Image Ltd, the band John Lydon entered after leaving The Sex Pistols. It was Morris who helped PiL's visual identity move beyond punk and enter into the new wave scene of the late '70s.

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ICA , St James' Until Sunday May 15 2016
See more photography in London

Next up: the best art shows in London

Top 10 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.

Read more
By: Time Out London Art

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 !