The Best Things We Saw at Photo London 2019

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Photo London 2019
Photography by Sophie Green

As Photo London closes for another year, we round up some of our 2019 highlights – and photographer Sophie Green captures an afternoon at the fair

For four days last week, Somerset House was filled with some of the world’s best photography as Photo London arrived with its 100-plus exhibitors in the Neoclassical building’s courtyard, halls and subterranean galleries. Here, alongside images from the fair’s opening day shot by photographer Sophie Green, we offer some of our high points from the fifth edition of Photo London.

Mary McCartney, Susan Meiselas and Rachel Louise Brown’s pavilion commissions

Walking around Somerset House’s sun-trapping courtyard over the course of Photo London allowed for enjoying this year’s pavilion commissions (without having to step foot inside the pavilion itself). The spotlight was on three female photographers, and their work covered the side and back walls of the main tent: Mary McCartney’s Off Pointe, intimate black and white shots of Royal Ballet dancers off stage, waiting in the wings, tying shoelaces or resting weary feet, Simulations by Rachel Louise Brown, an intriguing study of Florida, and Susan Meiselas’ stark and searing A Room of Their Own, photographs taken in women’s refuge centres in the Black Country in 2015 and 2016, formed the powerful trio.

Two series by Stephen Shore 

This year’s Master of Photography, street photographer Stephen Shore presented new work at this year’s Photo London. Details, a new series in which Shore shoots still lifes he comes across, was presented as large-format prints generously spaced over the walls of one of Somerset House’s long basement rooms, while Shore’s other series on show, Los Angeles, California, February 4th, 1969, was a quieter affair: shown in a conjoining room, the much smaller prints invited a closer look at the seminal series. This transition from the contemporary shots in extra-large to the 50-year-old extra-small images made for a refreshing look at Shore’s practice.

Eamonn Doyle’s ode to Dublin

Somewhat harder to find than his images that were shown as part of Michael Hoppen Gallery’s Photo London booth was Eamonn Doyle’s installation Made in Dublin, situated in a back corner room of Somerset House’s New Wing, away from the courtyard crowds. Once found, the work was certainly captivating: a collaboration with musician David Donahoe, production designer Niall Sweeney and writer Kevin Barry, the installation painted a contemporary portrait of Dublin. Narration by Barry interspersed with Donahoe’s music formed perfect companions for Doyle’s photography, which was displayed on a length of nine connected screens.

Edouard Taufenbach, Casper Sejersen and Max Pinckers in Discovery

The Discovery section of the fair, which is dedicated to emerging talent in the world of photography, was awash with exciting presentations. Paris’ Galerie Binome brought collages by Edouard Taufenbach, whose practice involves repurposing found photography into trompe l’oeil collages. Reprinting the photographs and cutting them into strips to rearrange allows Taufenback to create his rippling collages, which have a timelessness to them. Elsewhere, Casper Sejersen’s photographs at Cob Gallery were drawing attention for their extraordinary way of capturing colour and texture in various still lifes, and Max Pinckers’ hyperreal look inside North Korea with his series Red Ink stood out (not least for the saccharine pink wall it was shown on) at Gallery Sofie Van De Velde.

Vivian Maier’s Chicago street photography

20th-century American photographer Vivian Maier was one of the era’s most prolific, but her extensive back catalogue was only discovered in 2007. Photo London 2019 offered a rare chance to see Maier’s work in the UK, and the low-lit basement gallery of Somerset House proved the perfect setting for her vivid work. Maier, who worked as a nanny in Chicago for 40 years, trained her lens on her city’s streets as well as on herself: a portion of the exhibit was dedicated to her innovative self-portraits, as she would capture her silhouette on the pavement or the hint of a reflection of her face and camera in a window.