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Shot in Soho review

Art, Photography Photographers' Gallery , Soho Until Sunday February 9 2020
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Soho has become a much-mythologised part of London’s psyche – especially as the Cross Rail developments seem set to wipe away any last vestige of its former grubby glories. So it’s no wonder that The Photographers’ Gallery – situated in Soho – should dedicate a show to its changing face and fortunes. It’s celebratory, if not too sentimental. 

People have been banging on about Soho’s decline for decades – one of seven series exhibited is one shot by William Klein in 1980, for a piece in The Sunday Times Magazine about Soho’s fight for survival. He captures the whirl of different people drawn to or working there: from shaven-headed punks to an old couple cheekily caught next to a sign for ‘Hard Core Porno’ to the brilliantly weird-angled composition of four gunsmiths, proffering their wares.

There are series from 1968 by both John Goldblatt and Kelvin Brodie: the former goes backstage at a strip club to capture the offhand unselfconsciousness of its bored-looking dancers, reading the paper or having a fag, while the latter’s are far more tense. Brodie went out with police and charity workers on raids and ‘rescue missions’ alike; suspicion and resistance crackles off his gritty, hazy and half-lit black and white shots.

Clancy Gebler Davies and Corinne Day both capture the grungy-chic nineties. Davies worked shifts at members club Colony Room after racking up a bar tab she couldn’t pay, but was also granted permission to snap its patrons, caught in moments of involved intimacy or half-cut, haughty exhibitionism. Day’s portraits are all taken in her own Brewer Street flat/studio, and capture her friends – including Kate Moss, natch – lounging about or posing. They’re striking, but don’t tell us much about Soho, really.

The most recent pictures are Daragh Soden’s; taken in 2018, his colour images and portraits lack the atmosphere of most others in the show. Anders Petersen’s 2011 series of (mostly) street portraits, however, are super striking: his high-contrast black and white feels almost treacly and sticky, while his subjects fix the viewer with a direct gaze or twist away into one another. It feels like Petersen has really captured some dirty, defiant, joyful spirit of the area – whether that’s its last hurrah or not remains to be seen.

By: Holly Williams


Venue name: Photographers' Gallery
Venue website:
Venue phone: 020 7087 9300
Address: 16-18
Ramillies St
Transport: Tube: Oxford Circus
Price: £2.50-£5

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