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The London art scene continues to flourish, with everything from captivating immersive exhibitions to royal-themed shows on the cultural agenda for this summer. Now a whole new crop of photography exhibitions are getting ready to open up across the capital, showcasing powerful portraits and atmospheric landscape shots by both historic greats and emerging photographic talents. Here we’ve rounded up the best photography exhibitions to book tickets for this month.
Photo London at Somerset House
12 – 15 May
Over 100 exhibitors will be heading to the Neoclassical gem that is Somerset House for the seventh edition of the much-lauded Photo London fair, which showcases the crème de la crème of the past, present and future of photography. Bringing together top creative talents from around the world, highlights include solo presentations from South African artist Mikhael Subotzky, French photographer Marianne Maric and Canadian artist Edward Burtynsky. Alongside the arresting imagery displays, the show will also be playing host to several talks and workshops coordinated by the fair’s partner, Nikon, including ones on perfecting your Film Noir and fashion photography techniques.
For the Record: Photography & the Art of the Album Cover at The Photographers’ Gallery
Until 12 June
In the era of downloads and streaming, the levels of hype that were once whipped up around a truly excellent album cover can seem like a distant dream – this nostalgic show at the Photographers’ Gallery takes a trip down memory lane to celebrate over 200 of those iconic covers through the ages. Featuring works from the likes of Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman and David Bailey, the exhibition explores the contribution some of the 20th-century’s greatest artists have made to the world of album covers, while also shining a light on some of the lesser-known visual artists and creatives that helped bring these oft-overlooked works of art to life.
Ana María Gosen’s ‘Dias Eternos’ at Leica Gallery London
11 May – 10 June
This arresting new exhibition by Venezuelan photographer Ana María Gosen focuses on the shocking conditions found in the women’s prisons and detention centres in her home country. After returning to Venezuela following years of living in Europe, and hearing about the appalling situation these women found themselves in, Gosen felt compelled to get behind the Latin American penal system with her camera and reveal the desperate truth to the world. The body of work has since gone on to be nominated for several awards, with the images revealing the cramp and claustrophobic conditions, where women are forced to live without access to space, hygiene or medical care. It makes for heart-wrenching but important viewing.
Andreas Gursky at White Cube Bermondsey
Until 26 June
Best known for his gargantuan large-scale colour photographs, this latest exhibition of the celebrated German photographer’s work revolves around his incisive take on the effects of capitalism and globalisation on every-day life. Images of enormous looming cruise ships, the hectic scenes found inside the Kuwait Stock Exchange and fashion models parading down a catwalk are shown alongside tranquil seascapes and shots of ice skaters taking a twirl in a frozen parkland. Whatever subject matter he turns his hand to, the sheer vastness of Gursky’s imagery never fails to inspire awe in the viewer.
Known and Strange at the V&A Museum
Until 6 November
If there’s anywhere in London that has a truly impressive archive of photography at their disposal, it’s the V&A – for this show, they’ve hand-picked 50 of their most recent contemporary photography acquisitions to exhibit to the public. Focusing on photography’s unique power to transform the familiar into the unfamiliar and make the ordinary seem extraordinary, you’ll find Surrealist mixed-media portraits and deconstructed landscapes shown alongside black and white urban snapshots by the likes of Susan Meiselas, Andy Sewell and Tereza Zelenková.
Lee Miller: Nurses at the Fitzrovia Chapel
11 May – 5 June
She’s one of the most important photographers of the 20th-century and now the Fitzrovia Chapel is taking a closer look at a very specific area of Lee Miller’s work – her images taken of nurses during the final days of the Second World War. Forming part of an ongoing cultural programme relating to the history of the chapel as part of the former Middlesex Hospital, the show presents 12 of her pioneering war reportage photographs, beginning with a US army base in Oxford before moving on to the front lines in France, Austria and Germany. Combining a poignant sensitivity with Miller’s trademark Surrealist touch, the images – several of which were published as part of her articles for British Vogue – explore the full spectrum of friendship, romance, daily life and tragedy of these women at war.
Travel Photographer of the Year at Coal Drops Yard
12 May – 10 June
Capturing far-flung destinations with the click of a lens, this new open-air photography exhibition celebrates the beauty of our planet and all those who live on it. Taking place in the courtyard at Coal Drops Yard in King’s Cross, you’ll find a mix of vibrant landscape shots and intriguing night-time views taken beneath the ocean’s surface, juxtaposed with harrowing reportage of life under siege in Syria and fascinating glimpses of cultures from around the world. The effects of the global pandemic can also be seen across the works, with some entrants submitting imagery taken closer to home during one of the multiple lockdowns and others photographing countries where they unexpectedly found themselves stranded for months on end.
Nicholas Hughes: The Sound of Space Breathing at The Photographers’ Gallery
27 May – 24 July
British photographer Nicholas Hughes’ luminous works are getting their own exhibition at The Photographers’ Gallery this summer, with a whole show dedicated to his other-worldly silver gelatin prints. Drawn from his latest body of work created over seven years, the images are inspired by the lyricism of the natural world and the rhythm of Hughes’ own physical movement through the landscape, with many of the shots taken with his large format camera as he travelled along the footpaths around his home leading to the Cornish coast. From close-ups of dew drops on leaves and a full moon peeping through branches to the immense power of the ocean’s roiling surf, they offer up a poignant reminder of the beauty and fragility of our environment.
Maurice Broomfield: Industrial Sublime at the V&A Museum
Until 6 November
The power of industry takes centre stage in this exhibition of British photographer Maurice Broomfield, who was much sought after in the Fifties and Sixties for his dramatic depictions of Britain’s factories and their workers during an era of rapid transition. His arresting shots show the last remnants of the industrial revolution, with sparks flying at a wire manufacturing company and die casting taking place at a lawnmower works, as well as the arrival of emerging technologies and the new wave of women moving into the industry, with colour-saturated images of them working at nylon factories to make stockings. While several of Broomfield’s photographs may now be deemed somewhat problematic in a post-COP26 world, there’s no denying their magnificent beauty.
Astronomy Photographer of the Year at the National Maritime Museum
Until 7 August
From the Northern Lights in Iceland to the glittering constellations on show in some of the world’s best dark sky territories, this awe-inspiring annual exhibition at the National Maritime Museum reminds us of our (relatively insignificant) place within the cosmos. Now in its 13th year, the show – which is the largest international competition of its kind – attracts thousands of entries from almost 100 countries around the globe, who come to compete for the prestigious title. This year’s highlights include Chinese photographer Shuchang Dong’s astounding shot of a solar eclipse, a technicolour image of the California Nebula above Colorado and a smouldering crescent moon set high above glowing dunes of sand in Death Valley.