In honour of the festive list season, and the need to have something to talk about at the countless social events about to befall us all, here’s my list of the best photography shows in London from this about to be past year. If the Mayans were wrong, 2013 promises to build upon what was a vintage 2012.
1. Moriyama/ Klein at Tate Modern
(See Top Photo) A real belter of a show. An innovative pairing of artists combined with some excellent, at times novel, curation, this is (it’s still on!) an outstanding exhibition that reflects the Tate’s recently reinforced commitment to Photography.
See the review here: http://www.artlyst.com/articles/daido-moriyama-and-william-klein-two-monochrome-image-junkies
2. Everything was moving: Photography in the 60’s and 70’s’ at the Barbican
A thorough and comprehensive survey of some the most important politically motivated photographers of the 60’s and 70’s, this was a show to get lost in and spend time with. A coup for the Barbican, whose galleries are always a joy to wander through. Amongst the many greats on show was a rare sighting of Shomei Tomatsu in London (Michael Hoppen can only do so much!), Bruce Davidson’s early work, a David Goldblatt mini-retrospective, some Eggleston and the delightful work of Graciela Iturbide.
3. Group Show, ‘ Uncommon Ground’ at Flowers East
A summer group show that actually tried to go beyond the usual display of represented artists, this was an impressive selection of both emerging and established artists around an interesting theme; interventions into the landscape, both artist and man made. The curating was reflective of a keen eye for a contemporary photography still engaged with formal and technical skill.
4. Peter Fraser, ‘A City In The Mind’ at Brancolini Grimaldi
Brancolini Grimaldi have had some great shows this year but this was my favourite. Fraser, irreverent and idiosyncratic as ever, makes the act of photographing seems so effortless as to frustrate, but it’s such fun! Here he turns his macro-detail-close-up eye to objects that could represent London to a 17th century Chinese Emperor, obviously.
5. Yaakov Israel, ‘The Quest for the Man on the White Donkey’ at Margaret Street Gallery
Hot stuff from young Israeli photographer Yaakov Israel and the Margaret Street Gallery. A meditative, poignant journey through Israel that is both poetic and moving, this was established work from an emerging photographer. Laced with empathy and pathos, ‘The Quest for the Man on the White Donkey’ is a hymn to Israel’s native land.
6. Group Show, ‘Another London’ at Tate Britain
Timed to coincide with the commencement of the Olympics, this was a subtle look through the eyes of a group of great migrant or visiting photographers as they attempted to get a hold on this indefinite city over a 50 year span. It was the perfect antidote to all the flag-waving and challenged the viewer to think of London as its own breathing, beating entity and not the promotional fodder it became for the Olympic period, reduced to a skyline. The show suggested that an outsider’s perspective could easily mesh with our own, and in so doing gave this great city its due; London lets us live here but to presume we will ever really know it…
7. ‘Group Show, ‘Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour’ at Somerset House
Still on, this shows features some classic colour street-photography form the likes Joel Meyerowitz, Saul Leiter, Ernst Haas and Fred Herzog. It’s a classy, quality show, that is both accessible and scholarly. A winter treat.
8. Diane Arbus, ‘Affinities’ at Timothy Taylor Gallery
An elegant retrospective of the great master of compassion, this was a beautiful exhibit; a great talent lost to her own demons whilst celebrating in the misfittings of others; affinity indeed.
9. John Divola at Laura Bartlett Gallery
A very established artist, Divola’s main body of work in this show is the amazing ‘Dogs Chasing my Cars in the Desert’. Known for his conceptual interventions in abandoned buildings, this deceptively simple series of images belies its poetic impact. A hymn to movement and the moment.
10. Group Show, ‘Unknown Quantities’ at Fish Bar
Fish Bar is a really fun new space in East London set up by Young Magnum Photographer Olivia Arthur (whose accompanying publication for this show, ‘Jeddah Diary’ ,was , for many, one of the top photo-books of the year) together with her partner Philipp Ebeling, out of what was once a fish and chips takeaway. Alongside Arthur’s excellent work were other examples of some fine photo-journalism covering Arab Spring as well as other topics. As far as I can tell, apart from a couple of fairs, there hasn’t been another show in the space since then so here’s hoping this space will be able to establish itself.
Words by Kerim Aytac