Friday, June 19, 2015

Photo London - random thoughts


It was a pleasure to be in London in late Spring and have Photo London to look forward to. This was the inaugural edition of the London fair and it was clear the organizers had gone to great lengths to make the event successful. It would be unfair to compare Photo London with Paris Photo, the later is now firmly established and it has a commanding presence. Located in London's historic Somerset House, with its Strand address and views of the river, the location is in walking distance of the London's busy center. Unlike Paris' Grande Palais Somerset House is divided into rooms and this enabled the galleries to set up more individualized spaces. This did tend to create a maze of rooms, difficult to negotiate, although the organizers did provide "helpers" to act as guides.
Many of the well known galleries were present, for example Hamburg's Robert Morat and Yossi Milo from New York. Other dealers were there too scoping out the event for next year.

Publishers Dewi Lewis, Mack, Hatje Cantz. Phaidon and Kehrer were in attendance but relegated to a low-traffic area downstairs. I suspect they were not happy.
Photo London presented an impressive series of talks including Don McCullin, Erik Kessels, Quentin Bajac, Todd Hido, Sean O'Hagan, Sebastião Salgado, Mitch Epstein, David Campany and Stephen Shore. And of course there were book signings, but not with the ferocity that I saw at Paris Photo last November.
VIP visitors were well looked after with a Saturday tour of Peckham Galleries, a private view of Sotheby's photography sale, a conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist and Bertrand Lavier at the Serpentine gallery and much more...

Overall my impressions are positive, Candelstar, the organizers, worked hard to make the event a success and there seemed to be a London buzz about the fair. Something not seen in Paris. Somerset House does have its limitations but its location is superb and the courtyard at the front with tables and chairs added a pleasant "festival" element.

Spring into summer is a perfect time for Photo London, it kicks off the Northern photography season and it is the opening event leading to the Kassel FotoBookFestival and Photobook Bristol in June and Les Rencontres d'Arles in July. 

Photo London organizers are claiming a success, notching up 20,000 or more visitors, it remains to be seen how many of those were buyers and not just tire kickers. Dates for next year are 19 - 22 May.

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