Photo London 2016: Positive Notes

84 photography galleries from predominantly the Western or trans-Atlantic world exhibiting in the beautiful old rooms of Somerset House at The Strand in London – that is Photo London!

One may say that what Art Basel is to other art, Photo London has the potential to become to photography in all its shapes, categories, styles, techniques, expressions, media and historic periods.

It has come to life thanks to its two directors and art connoisseurs, Iranian-born Fariba Farshad and Michael Benson about whom you may read here.

And like Art Basel it is, with few exceptions, basically for the moneyed elite – and not too much experimentation. It costs even to just walk around and enjoy, an adult one-day tickets is £ 25.

However, the enthusiast or the person who has traveled a bit to get there – like I have from Sweden – will find it worth it. You’ll need two full days to give it a thorough review if you haven’t kind of seen it all before.

Somerset House in the mirror of the ticket office © Jan Oberg 2016

2016 was Photo London’s second year and my first time there. This article will focus on what I was most enthusiastic about at Somerset House. I always write about the things I like, thus conveying positive energy. I know how much it means to myself when someone expresses appreciation – and there is enough of negative critical-only, Besserwisser type of discussions in today’s world.

I don’t pretend to be a competent art photo critic, but see myself rather more as a recommender. Thus, I don’t do long more or less analytical text but let the images speak with a little intro and links where you can explore more – as if you had been there yourself.

That why it’s called social media – sharing and caring – and promoting achievement and success in all directions.

I’ve also made a 44-photos report at my Instagram account #obergphotographics and on #photolondonfair – and for your browser here.

In May 2016, London was turned into what was probably the world centre of photography.

Besides Photo London, there are interesting photography-related shows at about 30 places – e.g. at the Photographers’ Gallery, Tate Britain, Tate Modern and OXO Tower Wharf’s “Fix” to mention some.

Taking time to process it all – and I take hundreds of photos a day – I’ll write about these as soon as I can get around to it.

Martin Parr’s installation at the terrace facing river Thames was fun, a flashback to the good old days with photos inside an unusual “frame”. I’m not sure I was touched by it, but it inspired me to put it in yet another flashy frame.



A digression on the images in these notes:

I always process and/or crop, frame and otherwise change my photos before uploading to social media and this blog. One, it is fun with all the tools available. Two, you make it more personal. Three, I dislike the fast shoot-and-upload laziness with sharing of raw images that could have brought the viewer a little joy had they been cared for. Four, it’s good training and – fifth: Every image worth publishing is worth publishing well!

Many of the photos here are taken from the side. One of the biggest problems of photo exhibition is – the glass. I hate the distortion of every and each photo because of the reflections, the lamps, the other people and myself in the glass. It prevents me from seeing the art work as it is, it takes away my concentration and it destroys the sense of texture of the paper, its surface and edges. To convey the qualities of a photograph here requires that I do what I can do to avoid the negative effect of the glass.

See also Photo London – Shots Out Of Focus



Steven Kasher Gallery would hardly wait long for a buyer of these beautiful Marilyn Monroe portraits. Better than anything Warhol ever did with this American icon of  beauty and tragedy. See more of her here.



I must admit that I fell in love with Sandra Kantanen’s forest images – so beautiful, so real and yet so abstract. Magic depth between Finland and China where she was educated. At Purdy Hicks Gallery.



There is something both simple and refreshing about Christian Patterson’s “Framed Book Pages” at Robert Morat Galerie – the way a photograph is mounted collage-style on book pages that refers to a completely different world and yet communicates with each other in an intriguing three-dimensionality.



Robert Morat Galerie also exhibited Andrea Grützner’s images of rooms which appear as both very real – again collage-like – and abstract. I am of course drawn to them because the present exhibition in my studio – Abstract Real – explores why and how the two spheres sometimes melt – and melt through the composition. More works by Grützner’s at her homepage here.

Howard Greenberg – a gallery I particularly like for its modern classics – exhibited one of my photo favourites, Saul Leiter.

I have been drawn to Leiter’s works since I stumbled upon them in a book store in Berlin and immediately thought some of the works in that book must be by Robert Rauschenberg – a never-ending source of joy and inspiration for me since the 1960s – that I hadn’t seen before.

Leiter is thoroughly genuine, powerful, subtle, elegant and romantic. His is a humanist’s love of people and their neighbourhoods – and his (art) life story and philosophy is so touching: “I don’t have a philosophy, I have a camera…”



Christophe Guye Galerie featured, among many other, Stephen Gill – experimental photos. I liked this small unique C-type print in particular and wondered what it was printed on and how it got this paint-like appearance.



Here is an amazing piece by Stephen Wilks – “Day to Night” – that is based on 1500 pictures taken over 15 hours with a fixed camera and a selection of them later blended into one. In this way you dissolve the idea of photography being about one single moment.

Perhaps a bit too much National Geographic for my taste – but one can certainly appreciate the experimental attitude to working with the essential elements of time and light in a new manner. (Peter Fetterman Gallery)



Peter Fetterman Gallery also exhibited Steve McCurry’s (left) and Cartier-Bresson’s (right) “third world” photos – and, oh, how I prefer  the masterpieces of the latter.



In the Somerset House Annex – that because of its location attracted much fewer visitors – Beetles+Huxley featured a quite diverse selection, among them Chinese-born Wang Qingsong’s elegant peony images – however in the price range of £ 20.000-50.000…



At Paris gallery Esther Woerdehoff there is a lot of poetry, surrealism and humour as well as a relaxed atmosphere. Humour is nice, too many take themselves too serious, if you ask me!

Chema Madoz’ serene Untitled from 2006 caught my eye and the unavoidable mirror caught a third round shape – the window – and a fourth – the head. See the real thing and many more interesting artists at the gallery’s homepage above. So much creativity! And humour? Well, just look at that glass in front of a lady on the opening page of his photo homepage…



Russian Alexey Titarenko toned gelatin silver prints of cities like Havana, Venice, New York and St. Petersburg went straight to my heart for their originality, long exposures, subtle toning and – pure poetry and beauty bordering the black and white (but not quite). Some kind of enigmatic drama in the depth there?

The price? Very reasonable £ 1,500. At Nailya Alexander Gallery, New York.



Moving to another room at Somerset House, I diplomatically abstain from saying anything  about this work by “the world’s greatest photographer”… William Eggleston and its price.



No, in comparison give me any time these meditative images by Yoshinori Mizutani at the Ibasho Gallery in Belgium. There are innovations of a very traditional Japanese theme, the sakura – the cherry tree blossoms. (At about £ 2,000)



I enjoyed very very much to see Alex Soth’s very diverse photo, attracted as I am to artists who experiment, do new things and do not explore only one theme or one technique year after year – also even when that may end up in some kind of perfection.

Life out there is so rich – why limit our grasp of it to one type, one theme, one type of expressions?



Garry Fabian Miller has done camera-less abstract photography the last good 20 years. Here he is to the left and one of his large-format works on the wall.



Istanbul-based Gallery X-ist was a gem of an art space. When you walk in you may think that several photographers have filled the walls – but it is only one, Ahmet Polat. Social realism, story telling, abandoned places, changing cityscapes (history) and contrasts – very exciting and well-curated.

X-ist was one of those who see it as their task to find and mentor young artists. It used to be an important function in the gallery world – but todays’s money-making machinery often prevents such more noble and socially useful roles.

Ahmet Polat – courtesy the gallery’s homepage


At Hackelbury’s booth I also stopped at this beautiful piece by Doug & Mike Starn. I wish I knew what it is printed on because it’s an absolutely amazing, floating appearance – and not without Japanese inspiration from the twin brothers who are also known for their work with huge bamboo constructions.



Ben Brown Fine Arts – Hong Kong and London and not only photography – showed a.o. Candida Höfer and Hiroshi Sugimoto but I enjoyed more Israeli-born Ori Gersht’s enigmatic and lovely “Floating World, Floating Bridge”.

Strangely enough, it does contain accurate reflections in the water but then there is something more to it, something very elaborate – and beautiful!



Zphotographics turned out to be one of the positively “different” galleries at Photo London with a strong focus on non-Western expressions. Thus, Nigerian multi-photographer George Osodi gave the visitor a lot of food for thought, here from the series “Nigeria Monarchs”. I mean, what is going on here?


Another fine artist, Prabuddha DasGupta did some very daring nude photography in India, highly controversial even though it was as late as in the 1990s. Classical quality and beauty, indeed. More of his fashion/model photography here. Sadly he died in a heart attack only 56 years old.



My visit to ILEX Gallery proved yet another wonderfully creative experience –  a Rome-based gallery run by Deanna Richardson.

Here you see Canadia Nathalie Daoust’s photos on ceramics on the floor, “China Dolls” (and, no, I could not walk on them even though it was OK);  Paolo Patrizi’s “clouds” of birds in the background and Iranian Newsha Tavakolian on the wall to the right – and Deanna Richardson herself.

When I visited Daoust’s own homepage (above) I felt a particular connection that I can’t really explain even to myself. The this is it! – is just there!


The Blanca Berlin Gallery (Madrid) turned out to be one more kicking experience. Louis Gonzáles Palma’s portraits printed on rice tenguchi paper as well as the gold leaf prints were totally amazing.


And so I felt Peruvian Cecilia Paredes’ work here was.



Finally, Craigie Horsfield’s sombre and yet very life-affirming portraits of friends, family, encounters. Great that, for once, it is not about celebrities that the photographer tries to become famous by doing portraits of.

Huge, dark, simple – somehow majestically timeless. I was hit – drawn into them – the same way I am, every time I go to Tate Modern and sit down in front of Mark Rothko.

Horsfield’s portraits are not canvas-like, more as if printed on cloth. It’s very rough Arches papers and that is one of the reasons you relate directly – even feel like entering into them – and the other of course is the absence of glass. It’s direct. almost like feeling the skin, the hair and the eyes directly face-to-face. Truly enigmatic, I must admit!







In summary a very fine experience. It gave me lots of simple perceptive eye joys and inspiration.

Photo London 2016 very well documents the extent to which this art form is both truly dynamic in its own field these years and simultaneously reaches out to so many other art forms, blending and enriching.

And if Photo London would attracts more non-Western and more experimental, “wild” photography in the years to come it may become something absolutely extraordinary.

The potential is certainly there.

So, see you May 18-21 2017 – and why not a few days longer?

See also Photo London – Shots Out Of Focus




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