What Not to Miss at Photo London this Weekend

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4. Maisie Cousins bjorkA4
Maisie Cousins, Bjork, 2017Courtesy of the artist and TJ Boulting

As the international fair returns to the capital, along with its counterpoint events, we round up the unmissable exhibits

Today sees the international photography fair Photo London return to the hallowed halls of London’s Somerset House for its fourth edition. Spanning four days, the annual event has become a fixture on the capital’s cultural calendar, and this year boasts over 100 galleries from 18 countries showcasing their artists. From early pioneers to contemporary image-makers, the fair is an amalgamation of staggering landscapes, seductive portraits, abstract experimentation, fashion masterworks, and political provocations. The Discovery section attracts the most critical attention and since its inception last year has expanded to include 22 emerging galleries. Meanwhile, dissident creative events are surging up across the city, most notably south of the river – Peckham 24 at the Bussey Building, and Offprint at Tate Modern. If this riot of photographic art is too intense to navigate, here are our top picks of the breakthrough artists, galleries and publishers.

1. Galleries du jour

Located in the Discovery section, Webber Gallery Space (London) has swiftly built a reputation for showcasing a roster of innovative image-makers. Among the six in their booth this year is the feted New York-based artist Daniel Shea; his elegant photographic contemplations on the effects of capitalism in the ever-rising concrete jungle that he calls home contributed to his winning the revered Paul Huf award earlier this year. Meanwhile, L’Étrangère (London) is exhibiting the semi-abstract work of London-based Filip Berendt, who combines scrapbook-like collages with sleek Modernist shapes painted onto aluminium sheets. Elsewhere in the fair, don’t miss Maisie Cousins’ portraits of Björk, and Juno Calypso’s Vagas-pink bunkers inhabited by solitary female avatars, both at T.J. Boulting’s booth.

2. Photographic pioneers

While many of the galleries outside of the Discovery section have been in the game much longer than those within it, this isn’t the rule of thumb. Art+Text Budapest, for example, was only founded three years ago, but has already become a pivotal voice in the Eastern-European art scene. Look out for Attila Vécsy’s conceptual images, and the radical work of Tibor Hajas and János Vető, who in the 70s embraced performance in desperate response to Hungary’s fraught socio-political climate. At Mohsen Gallery (Tehran), the Iranian artist Gohar Dashti’s beautiful series Still Life demonstrates that abstraction can equally have a political bent: her cyanotype sun prints of fragmented plants, inspired by the delicate and ground-breaking work of the 19th-century English botanist Anna Atkins, are blown up in scale to suggest the ruins of war-torn landscapes.

3. Digital Displays

In recognition of the medium through which we most often view photographs today, the prolific online photography magazine LensCulture is presenting the winners of their annual Exposure Award on digital screens. But you won’t be able to scroll past Eddo Hartman’s series Setting the State – North Korea. With spine-chilling clarity, he lenses the austere architecture and public spaces of the country’s capital city, while tapping into the isolation felt by its citizens. Elsewhere in the fair, New York’s cherished International Centre of Photography has teamed up with Photo London to present Unwavering Vision #3, an interactive multimedia installation which mines the ICP’s photographic archives to present 5,000 images related to social change.

4. Paper Gems

The Publishers Section is the destination if you’re set on not leaving the fair empty-handed. It’s free to enter without a ticket, and here you’ll find books, special editions and prints by a cross-section of emerging and established photographers, including many of those exhibited throughout the fair. Don’t miss Finding Bones by the Los Angeles-based visionary Grey Crawford who’ll be signing his book at Kehrer Verlag’s stand; it’s a gorgeous conceptual take on topographical photography, made from handmasking prints in the darkroom. Elsewhere, the London-based publisher MACK is launching the winner of their annual First Book Award and showcasing the impressive shortlist, which includes prototype books by, Diane Severin Nguyen – nominated by Torbjørn Rødland – and Dafna Talmor, whose brilliant work is also on show at Peckham 24.

5. Alternative Events

On the other side of town, a burgeoning network of events will pull you away from the labyrinth of booths at Photo London. For its third edition, Peckham 24 returns to the Bussey Building this weekend to shine a spotlight on a local network of artists, curators and galleries who make the district one of London’s most exciting contemporary art scenes. Photographic work by the likes of Jo Dennis, Hannah Starkey, Penelope Umbrico, and Lorenzo Vitturi will draw large crowds on Friday’s opening night – that is, once you’ve submerged yourself in the plethora of art books and zines presented at Offprint. Situated in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, the hugely popular fair is an international gathering of independent publishers who prize everything from photography to typography and counter-cultural fashion. Look out for Claire de Rouen, Edition Patrick Frey, Lisson Gallery, Loose Joints, and Tenderbooks.

Photo London is at Somerset House until May 20, 2018.