What to Do and See During This Year's Photo London

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© Clare Strand 2016 courtesy MACK

London's annual photography fair sparks art events across the capital. Here's our curated edit of the most unmissable of them all

If you’ve long been planning a trip to England’s busy capital, you could do worse than to time it for this weekend, when all four corners of the city (or so it seems) will be with overrun by creative endeavours in all their various forms. Since its debut no more than two years ago, Photo London has established itself as a dynamic opponent to neighbouring photography fairs such as Unseen in Amsterdam and the excellent Paris Photo, not least because it partners with countless likeminded institutions to make the weekend all about photography, in its many iterations.

So what does that mean for your weekend itinerary? Well, either you can head to Somerset House to peruse the wares on display by the 99 exhibitors taking part, attend a talk, visit an exhibition of emerging talent or spend your rent on photo books and zines. In case that has you feeling a bit overwhelmed, here’s our curated selection of things to get out and see at this year’s Photo London. 

Photo London, Somerset House, May 18 – 21, 2017
At the centre of all the activity taking place over the next couple of days is Photo London itself, an enormous collection of galleries and publishers from around the world who’ve gathered in the hallowed halls of Somerset House. As if the stalls themselves weren’t enough, the fair also boasts a brilliantly curated exhibition series featuring Juergen Teller, Mat Collishaw and William Klein, plus book signings, screenings, talk, tours, and awards, so that whatever time of whatever day you find yourself arriving, there’ll be plenty for you to do.

Offprint London Art Publishing Fair at Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, May 19 – 21, 2017
No fewer than 140 independent and experimental publishers gather in Tate Modern’s enormous Turbine Hall each year to celebrate printed matter across the realms of art, graphic design and photography. It’s a little like Supermarket Sweep, except for with zines, photo books and strange hand-printed T-shirts rather than groceries, and with a host of workshops, talks and interactive events to boot. Don’t come with an empty wallet, and keep in mind that whatever Offprint might drain from your bank account will be made up for in how it improves your bookshelf. Signings and events abound, too: don’t miss Clare Strand signing her brilliant MACK-published book I Love Snake at 5pm on Thursday, at the corresponding stand in Somerset House. 

Open House, at Dover Street Market, 5pm-8pm, May 18, 2017
Never one to turn a blind eye to city-wide celebrations of creativity and collaboration, this season Dover Street Market has cleverly timed its Open House to coincide with London’s focus on photography. And it’s set to be extraordinary, with figures from every corner of the extended Comme family coming together for the event. IDEA Books will offer a series of one-off Juergen Teller prints, Molly Goddard has created an extra-special zine, and you’ll also find Raf Simons x Robert Mapplethorpe T-shirts, limited-edition Loewe books, signed copies of J.W. Anderson’s exhibition catalogue Disobedient Bodies, plus dream art gallery gift-shop offerings from the National Portrait Gallery and objects from CDG Furniture, Delfina Delettrez, et al. 

Foam Talent at Beaconsfield Vauxhall, May 18 – June 18, 2017
Amsterdam-based gallery Foam has a long-established reputation as one of the frontrunners when it comes to contemporary photography. Every year, the creative minds behind it take the opportunity to proclaim the greatest new practitioners in the medium, and you’d be well-advised to sit up and listen. 24 innovative image-makers under the age of 35 have passed the test this year, following an open-call entry and selection process, and their wares are making their way around the world as part of the resulting Foam Talent exhibition, which officially opens in London at 7pm on May 17. Juno Calypso, Nico Krijno, and Jack Davison all feature – and rest assured that this isn’t the last you’ll see of them.

Photo Sale, Webber Gallery Space at Somerset House, May 18 – 21, 2017
Small but mighty, central London’s Webber Gallery Space offers a perpetually changing and always innovative programme of established and emerging contemporary photographers. Not content with simply hanging untouchable images on its walls, the masterminds behind it are taking steps to tackle the aura of unapproachability around buying artwork, especially small editions, too. “Small editions were essentially put in place by museums and galleries to control the output of photographs, and give value to something that is inherently reproducible,” Dominic Bell from the gallery explains. “There’s no problem in that, but it can restrict the flow of a photograph and dissuade photographers from printing works that stand outside of series.” This year, a collection of four time-sensitive editions by the likes of Thomas Albdorf, Marton Perlaki, Daniel Shea and Theo Simpson will be available to buy in editions of ten, and for just £150 each, or £500 for the set – an unmissable opportunity to start, or continue, a budding collection. The works will be available from the Webber stand, and you can expect more in the future. “We hope by creating these editions, which will go on to be a feature at all our art fairs, we are creating affordable, time-sensitive photographs which hold a special value because of the place and time they were purchased.”

Taryn Simon, Image Atlas at at Somerset House, May 18 – 21, 2017
This year’s Master of Photography, the prestigious title awarded to a practitioner whose work is especially groundbreaking, goes to the inimitable Taryn Simon, whose diverse and conceptually driven work is informed by extensive research to incisively pinpoint what’s going on in the world today. “Meticulously mining, questioning and upsetting the certainty that the photographic image and the archive assert, Taryn Simon turns our attention to the margins of systems of power, where control, its disruption, and the contours of their constructedness become visible,” the fair writes.

At Somerset House she’ll show Image Atlas, a work created in collaboration with the late computer programmer and activist Aaron Swartz in which the pair indexed top search results for various terms in local engines around the world, niftily demonstrating both the cultural differences and similarities between nations from Syria and North Korea to Kenya and the United States. She’ll also take part in what is sure to be an incredibly engaging conversation with Artangel’s James Lingwood as part of the fair’s accompanying talks programme (which, should you be interested, also features Antony Gormley, Ken Loach, Juergen Teller and Richard Mosse).

Peckham 24 in Peckham, May 19 – 20, 2017
If you’re based in south London and (as residents that side of the river so often are) reluctant to schlep all the way into central for the sake of revelling in all that contemporary photography has to offer, no matter – it’s coming to you. Peckham24 will take the form of a 24-hour celebration of the most cutting-edge photographic talent, based at Copeland Park, Bussey Building and at a number of other participating galleries and spaces region-wide. Exhibitions, installations, live performances and DJ sets will ensue. Keep your eyes peeled for a solo presentation by Jo Dennis entitled Your feet in the air and your head on the ground, exploring the concepts of time and space through well-used spots; At Home She’s a Tourist, which looks at private, interior and domestic spaces; and the very promising It’s Gonna Be Great, an irreverent new look at the state of American politics. Here’s hoping.