A building and lots of people walking around

Photo London is one of the leading photographic fairs

Photo London’s ninth edition aims to integrate photography into the contemporary art world. But can it? Isabella Fergusson finds out

The cobbles of Somerset House aren’t quite bearing the catwalks of heels, neon suits and russet trousers one sees at Frieze or Art Basel. More cameras than Gucci bags slung across shoulders, more prams pushed, more WatchHouse coffee than Ruinart champagne. It seems more democratic – but to its strength or its downfall?

100 exhibitors, 44 cities worldwide: the numbers are good for London’s top photography fair, and returning galleries are strong. But, ever since photography entered the commercial world in the ‘70s, it has been seen as something of a niche by many. Its Director, Kamiar Maleki insists, however, that 2024 has seen yet more progress in cranking the door open to a contemporary art-collector-base.

man looking at picture in an art fair

This year’s Photo London is curated by Dani Matthews and entitled Shifting Horizons; photograph by Isabella Sanai

What’s happening this year that’s made it successful? ‘We’re branching out,’ he says, ‘we’re including more film, more mediums, and the car’ – he points to a navy electric car, a Lunaz, parked in the Somerset House courtyard – ‘which has been invested in by big names such as David Beckham – these have helped gain traction’. Is this because photography is not attractive enough by itself? ‘We have to entice the High Net Worths through other mediums’, he responds diplomatically. Perhaps a hint that photography alone still lacks respect; but perhaps, too, a testament to Maleki’s success in luring people into giving it the attention it deserves.

a woman in front of a daguerrotype image

Rebecca Hicks, Director of Purdy Hicks, in the reflection of a daguerrotype by Japanese photographer Takashi Arai; photographed by Joe Oswald

Photography’s technical gymnastics are exhibited with undeniable flair: see Takashi Arai’s impressive daguerrotypes, Susan Derge’s cameraless photography, laid directly over Dartmoor puddles of frogspawn, and Roope Rainisto’s AI-based works, thrumming with viewers, to a remarkable manipulation of printing mediums across the fair. The number of mediocre works was to be expected, but the number which stood out as sensational from the many Michael Jackson-type portraits was higher than one might imagine.

an exhibition room

Photo London brings together the world’s leading galleries in a major international photography Fair at Somerset House; photograph by Isabella Sanai

Sales? Well, as Rebecca Hicks, Director of Purdy Hicks, comments, the general consensus is that sales ‘remain quiet so far’. Maleki slides past the question with an ‘ask me on Tuesday!’ Fru Tholstrup, London-based art advisor and curator, though, beams with anomalous success of her showcase of Mariano Vivanco’s work from his latest book, ‘Peru’, hopping through folklore and mythology expressing striking figures between humans and animals, which one tends to associate with drawings rather than photography. Mariano remains confident in photography’s ability to leak into fine art, with a winking ‘Respect Photography, or Die!’. And he’s sold with fine art figures, too.

man standing outside a building in a suit

Kamiar Maleki, Director of Photo London; photograph by Joe Oswald

Some dealers insist they are at Photo London for the artistic exposure as much as sales. Gerber & Stauffer Fine Arts has an exhibition featuring Iranian-born Rahi Rezvani, introduced to the commercial world for the first time. Successful in luxury, performing arts and entertainment industries, he has never before sold a single print of his works.

man in front of image in of the sea

French photographer Valérie Belin has been named as the Master of Photography 2024; photograph by Isabella Sanai

But why start now? ‘People think success in photography is selling lots of photographs. I disagree. It’s about choosing carefully and selling well.’ He refuses to sell hundreds of his prints he has laid out, from a portrait of Quentin Tarantino to fiery images of dance, to a triptych covered in a natural substance he associates with sperm. Technologically, these seem extremely impressive, perhaps as or even more than those on the wall. When asked how he took them, he smiles knowingly, holding back. Brimming with confidence, he isn’t particularly interested in selling lots, but few, well-chosen ones.

That’s the way to elevate photography to the fine art world, he and Thomas Stauffer, Director of Gerber & Stauffer Fine Arts agree. Reduce the print number – even to one (in the case of his photograph ‘Willem Dafoe’) – signed with guarantee of no reproduction, and photography can have the value and respect of art. Although, in general, the knowledge that further prints can be made will always linger with all types of photography except polaroid. Even when reducing the number of editions, photography still remains on the precarious edge for established contemporary collectors.

man with red hair and blue background

Willem Dafoe, photographed by Rahi Rezvani, 2012

It’s entirely the other way around for Ana Matos, Director of Salgadeiras Arte Contemporânea. The very fact that, unlike painting, photography editions expands to an average of 5 to 7 means that it gains a democratic value, attracting a new wave of emerging millennial collectors. Such can be seen in the floor for the Nikon Emerging Photographers Award, part of Photo London. The average age decreases, buzz increases and – while sales are still reportedly quiet – the recognition and discussions are engaging a new crowd in collecting. Perhaps it’s not so much about gaining older contemporary art collectors, but shifting the next generation of collectors to photography.

man in front of an image of mountains

Photo London has two major exhibitions as part of the Public Programme, over 120 new and returning international exhibitors; photograph by Joe Oswald

And perhaps, by virtue of its less revered status, Photo London does focus more for new art and expression than collector-base. As photographer Maryam Eisler comments, ‘Photo London is a place of discovery and new talent.’ One can meet the photographs at eye-level, rather than kneel before them, and the fair is focused on the artform itself, and forming a snapshot of its growing identity and credibility. One feels closer to it all, somehow. And – as Eisler also points out – this is aided by its ‘excellent satellite programme of talks and critical thinking.’

reflection of a woman taking a picture in front of a picture

Photo London 2024 features over 400 photographers from around the globe; photograph by Joe Oswald

Photography remains on the sideline of established contemporary art; sales seem quiet. But, stripped of the catwalk-tendency of many art fairs, which can distract from the art itself, the model of a fair where art is accessible and thought about, rather than prized solely for sales, may be commercially more challenging, but is extremely refreshing. And, though established collectors may not dive into buying, photography might just present a more democratic art world – with a long way to go.

Photo London runs at Somerset House from 16-19 May 2024

See More: photolondon.org

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people chilling in nature looking at the camera

Pioneering entrepreneur and philanthropist Nachson Mimran has a show of his black and white photography at the Leica Gallery in London’s Mayfair. Compelling for many reasons, says LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai

A Native American with a feather har holding his fist up in a black and white photo

Manari Ushigua – leader of the Sápara Nation, in Naku in the Ecuadorian Amazon; photograph by Nachson Mimran in March 2018

Through my years of commissioning photographers, across art, fashion, travel and portraiture, for LUX and Condé Nast, it has become evident that photography is a two-way lens. The image a photographer (or image-maker, as some prefer) captures is of them, as much as it is of their subject. Send two photographers on a similar mission, and you will see very different results.

Little girl in front of wire mesh in dress

A street art project in Libreville, Gabon; photograph by Nachson Mimran, November 2018

This becomes very apparent on viewing the images in Nachson Mimran’s debut show, Photographs from the decade that changed my life, at the Leica Gallery in London. Nachson, a contemporary renaissance man who is part creative, part philanthropist, part social entrepreneur, part philosopher and part tycoon, was not commissioned by anyone to create these images: they are a selection of photographs he took on his travels over ten years.

With his Leica Monochrom cameras (distinctive, niche, digital rangefinders) Mimran chronicled people and life everywhere from Bangladesh and Uganda to the Swiss Alps and West Africa, where he grew up.

trees behind a tribesman in Kenya looking at the camera

Tribesmen from Turkana, Kenya; photograph by Nachson Mimran, November 2022

Mimran is best known for his stewardship of to.org, a philanthropic, creative and entrepreneurial ecosystem making real change. (He is also one of the owners of the hyper-chic Alpina hotel in Gstaad.) The red thread throughout is Mimran’s empathy and humanity: those who know him might suggest he is a modern-day humanist, above everything else. Particularly striking, because, as this is a personal chronicle, Mimran never intended to create anything for public exhibition.

A father and daughter looking at the camera

Self-portrait of Nachson Mimran and his daughter in Gstaad, Switzerland; October 2022

A compelling show, and a window into the mind of someone who, in his own way, is changing the world.

Nachson Mimran: Photographs From The Decade That Changed My Life is on show at Leica Gallery, Mayfair, London until 11 February

leica-camera.com

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a woman smiling wearing a multicoloured dress with yellow sleeves
squares with photos of palm trees in them

Estenopeica Digital I by Javier Hinojosa, 2022

Fariba Farshad is co-founder of Photo London which since its inception eight years ago has become one of the most respected photography fairs in the world. This year’s edition is the strongest yet with 125 exhibitors from 56 countries worldwide and a sponsorship portfolio that includes the Royal Bank of Canada as Principal Partners and Belmond as Presenting Partners.  Here, Farshad speaks to LUX about the future of the fair and her latest curation project, Fotografìa Maroma- an exhibition commissioned to  capture the environmental beauty of the Riviera Maya in Mexico where Maroma, A Belmond Hotel, will reopen later this year
a woman smiling wearing a multicoloured dress with yellow sleeves

Fariba Farshad © Laura Pannack

LUX: How did the Fotografía Maroma project come about?
Fariba Farshad: I was asked to curate a show featuring a group of important Mexican artists. I was delighted to be asked, but at the same time a little challenged  by the idea. I understand and love Mexican photography. It has a rich photographic tradition and is an increasingly important   market for contemporary photography with a lot of good artists who are represented internationally by important galleries – but for me to visit and work with a culture that I don’t come from myself was a big undertaking. So it  was great to be able to collaborate with Patricia Conde who has one of the most known photography galleries in Mexico.

Between us we selected four artists: two very established artists, one who had been working in very different industries including advertising and one young emerging photographer. We asked them to travel to Maroma, to Riviera Maya, and develop their own artistic responses to the wild beauty of the pristine Mayan environment. As for the images, the brief was completely open. Moreover, they were only given two weeks to work in the area and to work with the natural surroundings. It was not necessarily the best time of year – not exactly ‘beach weather’, which was interesting because most of the time the weather there is fantastic! Of course, it was a professional assignment, not a holiday. They were supported by a fixer and the hotel, and they were free to work wherever and however their inspiration took them.

A black and white tornado

Horizonte I by Margot Kalach, 2022

LUX: What do you find particularly interesting about the Rivera Maya?
FF: What is particularly interesting is that the four artists found themselves in a wild and unusual working environment. Not at all in their comfort zone. Patricia Lagarde, for example, is very much an established artis whose practice is studio based. Asking her to work in a different, even awkward state was a very interesting challenge for us and for her. All of them were the same in a way, like Patricia, they were mostly studio-based. Javier Hinojosa, is a highly regarded artist whose studio- made portraits in black and white justly famous, He was sent to work in the wilderness and we were fascinated to see what he came back with. The same was true of Ilan Rabchinskey who says of his minimalist studio practice ‘My aspiration is to achieve simplicity’ For him working with nature meant ‘managing uncontrollable factors’. The result was a series of, creating 3D objects allowing the beautiful natural light of the place to create a play of shadows and then photographing the results. The final member of the group was a talented emerging artist Margot Kalach, who was interested in working with light to create digital artworks.

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The other interesting aspect was the time frame. It was the first time that I have worked with artists and commissioned new work with such an intense deadline. I actually think the reason it worked so well was because they didn’t have too much time to edit the result, and therefore it was very continuous and very creative. I am really delighted by the result.

The moon on a sheet hung up on the beach

Trapping the Moon by Patricia Lagarde, 2022

LUX: What did the artists create?
FF: Patricia ended up capturing the moon by spreading a piece of white cloth and taking the photo of that reflection, and then hanging it in the wind before photographing it again. It was a performance installation piece in photography; fantastic and totally different to anything she’s done before.

Javier took these amazing photographs of the waves in one series and plants in another He then deconstructed the images and reassembled them into grids of eight pieces and in doing so created a completely new image. I found his process fascinating. He used his iPhone on the water, creating a pinhole with his phone, and used all sorts of experimental ways of dealing with technology, different cameras as well as the phone to create new images. He had not worked this way before this commission.

coloured sheets on a beach

Drift and Direction from A Vessel for the Sun by Ilán Rabchinskey, 2022

Ilán took 3D objects from his studio to the beach and positioned them, waiting for one set of shadows to be created by the wind, the water, and the beach, letting nature take over the process of painting with light.

I was really excited to see what Margot, would come up with using digital technology. In fact, she chose to create a pinhole camera using a paintbox. She basically turned her bathroom into a darkroom, and the result was absolutely amazing: the sort of large print that uses the depths and the dreamy capture of the water. She totally went for very early technology rather than pursuing her in-studio high-tech approach. It was fascinating and she absolutely loved it. I think it is going to have a very long lasting effect on her work.

Fotografia Maroma, the show they made together, opened at Art Basel Miami Beach in the design district in December, then went to Mexico during Zona Macao, and is now coming to Photo London.

lots of stones and pebbles

A Particle, A Wave from A Vessel for the Sun by Ilán Rabchinskey, 2022

LUX: This year’s Photo London has seen a significant evolution and in fact a couple of significant new partners and sponsors. Could talk us through that?
FF: Photo London 2023 is our 8th edition. It has grown stronger with each passing year. Even when the pandemic hit in 2020 when we were two months out from the Fair, we took the opportunity to develop our Academy programme of talks and launch a successful online magazine (now in its 100th edition) and ran a fantastic and very successful online Fair in September 2020. Our partnership with Nikon was sealed during the pandemic and we took that to be an important endorsement of the strength of Photo London.

This year we have three new partners: Hahnemuhle came on board earlier in the year and with them we launched a new Photo London Hahnemuhle student award; we just released the shortlist for this. We are also continuing our Emerging Photographer of the Year Award with Nikon. Belmond have come on board as Presenting Partner having successfully partnered with us on Fotografía Maroma. And finally the most recent addition to our partnership portfolio is the Royal Bank of Canada, who recently became our Principal Partners. They are planning a great series of activations this year. They have a strong tradition of collecting and supporting emerging artists so in many ways are the perfect partners for Photo London. We are really looking forward to working with them and developing this relationship. These are very significant changes for Photo London. This fantastic group of sponsors shows how Photo London has really established itself as a key cultural event both in London and internationally.

A black and white beach

Horizonte II by Margot Kalach, 2022

LUX: Between 2015 and now, pandemic notwithstanding, have you seen a noticeable shift in consciousness among photography collectors?
FF: Certainly, during the pandemic some galleries did good business. Photography collectors are always very cautious, taking their time, doing the research, looking around, and so the online presence of galleries sort of suited them. They were actually very active.

Read more: Sam Dalrymple and Durjoy Rahman On Cultural Reconnections Post-Partition

I think we see very much a shift towards contemporary, younger collectors, in London especially, and that is exactly what we have been working on for the last eight years. We wanted to look to the future and create a platform for future photography, because photography is based on a continual process of experimentation and reinvention fuelled by fast-moving technology. It’s a relatively young medium, changing rapidly, and is finding its way through all sorts of directions. Our vision has always been to create a platform for younger galleries, younger artists, and, alongside that, educate and develop a pool of younger collectors.

Two men and a woman all wearing dark suits standing side by side

Photo London founders Fariba Farshad (left), Michael Benson (right) with new director Kamiar Maleki

But overall, the art world changed so much after the pandemic, and many galleries found it more difficult to sustain themselves. Some moved to smaller places, some worked online. Everything in our world is generally shifting and still hasn’t quite returned pre-pandemic levels, though this year’s Fair shows that we are almost there. As a business, as a Fair, you absolutely need to be conscious of all these changes and create space for the opportunities they bring.

Photo London, Somerset House, London, 11th-14th May 2023

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Reading time: 8 min
Woman's face close-up
Black and white portrait of a woman's face

Copyright & courtesy of Senta Simond

Art photographer Senta Simond sets out to explore the female image through what she calls her own definition of a woman. She talks us through images from her latest series, shown in New York this year

“I discovered that being a woman photographing women allowed me to capture these intimate images, and that was an advantage that I wanted to explore. In a way, we constructed the images together.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

“I wanted to show women’s bodies from my own perspective, so that’s why they are not overly sexualised. It was more about trying to find an interesting image, even a little uncomfortable maybe. Also to catch the subject in an in-between moment. I want my images to talk, not only about the form of the subject but something deeper and more complex.

Black and white semi nude image

Copyright & courtesy of Senta Simond

“I try to present a multidimensional personality. My images are filled with an admiration for the subjects rather than evoking desire. I believe this is a healthy relationship to women’s bodies.”

View the artist’s full portfolio: sentasimond.com

This article will also be published in the Summer 2020 Issue, hitting newsstands in May 2020.

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Olivo Barbieri creates artifice out of reality. The Italian art photographer and film-maker, who has shown at MOMA New York, the Sundance Festival and Tate Modern in London, specialises in visual studies of spectacular urban landscapes that make cities look like haunting plastic architects’ maquettes. In an exclusive interview with Caroline Davies, he talks of his adventures in India, China, and London’s Olympic Park.

How do you start on a project?
There is no rule, it depends on the project. Each is different. I use some inspiration from books or the Internet. Because I use a helicopter, I will speak to the pilot to decide what to do. Much of the time I have a selection of places in mind but whether we can reach these often depends on the city I am in. London is easier because you can get permission to shoot.

How do you select your subjects?
That is a difficult question to answer. I try a lot of subjects and I don’t know before I shoot them what will happen. It is difficult to explain. Sometimes something interests me. When I was shooting London it was very important for me to see the new Olympic area and some new construction.

The subject has to be right for my work, not everything belongs with it. When I select my images I try to tell a story, like a small novel. Normally I decide to have only 12 images that relate to one another. I will shoot more or less 2000 images before I select and when I start, I don’t know what will be. The first step in the project is when I shoot, but the second is in post-production.

The really famous landmarks are more difficult because they are well-known subjects, St Paul’s or Tower Bridge for example. There are so many images in the history of photography that it is difficult to do something new. That is part of the challenge of my work.

What do you want to achieve?
I want to capture a city in a new way, but also discover what will be the future of this city; I’m always experimenting. The important thing is to imagine how it will be in the future, not how it is now. I choose something major so that people will look at the picture and see the possibility. I am looking for what will be.

Do you remember your first camera?
Yes it was an Eura Ferrania, an Italian – made camera. I was 8 years old. I still have some photographs and the camera, it still works. It is very simple. I liked it a lot, but I only started taking photographs seriously when I was 18. I wanted to be a photographer, but create art photography, not commercial photography, and have my work in a gallery. I looked at work of Monet and Andy Warhol.

How did you start your career?
At the beginning I did straight photography. I shot in the outskirts of cities, often at night because I was interested the artificial illumination of the city. I took pictures of Europe and Asia and made a comparison between the way each uses artificial illumination. After that I started to use select focus where only part of the lens is in focus so it was possible to decide what the more important part is. I built a project in Italy, India and in China and I did a big exhibition. In 2003 I started shooting famous cities of the world from a helicopter. The plan was quite specific, I tried to look at the world like an installation.

The selected focus technique is very interesting. I started using it because I was a little bit tired of the idea of photography, I wanted to decide what part of the picture was interesting. I discovered that not only was it possible to decide important to me because no one had done that before. Then I made a discovery when I tried to do it from a helicopter. When what was to be the central focus, but the result was something like a new world, a new way to see the world. It was very I first used it, I was very surprised, it opened a new world of possibility. It was very interesting to me that everything could be made to look like this, less real. I tend to decide after whether something has worked or not.

What do you think of the camera phone?
I like it a lot. When everyone has a camera, they can take a normal photo around me so it allows me to focus on art photography, to take a photo of something that they cannot. It gives me more freedom

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