Over the last years I’ve developed quite an interest in photography exhibitions, especially street and documentary photography. I’m not sure why, perhaps because I have always been fascinated by people and their stories? Or perhaps it’s because seeing those candid non-staged photos makes me feel I’m into a little secret, shared privately with me by the photographer. In the few past weeks I have not only been part of a group photography show myself (you can read about that here), but I’ve also visited some excellent photography exhibitions in London I wanted to share with you here.
1. London Nights – the Museum of London (until 11 November 2018)
There are several reasons why I loved this photography exhibition so much. The main reason would be that London is the main topic in all works and being able to recognise so many of the locations and situations portrayed in the pictures obviously resonated with me on a more personal level. But the chosen photos also offer a great historical insight into a part of London that’s forever lost, such as the pre-skyscraper-filled London skyline in a time when milkmen still pushed their carts along a quiet Charing Cross Road.
Ranging from Victorian lantern slides to modern digitally manipulated photographs, the show not only documents historical events and the city’s (ever-changing) architecture, but also subcultures and the evolution of Londoners. Seeing a photo of hundreds of people sheltering from the German air raids in London Liverpool Street Station, a station I travel through so often, during WWII obviously made quite an impact on me, but I also found it fantastic to see photos from the 1930s when everybody still took the effort to dress smartly – quite the contrast to the track suits or ripped jeans you see in the streets today.
Although I had countless personal favourites, including Tish Murtha’s documentation of sex workers in the, until recently, former hedonistic Soho and John Goto’s frank 1970s portrait series Lovers’ Rock of young British African-Caribbeans, I was absolutely captivated by Nick Turpin’s series On the Night Bus in which he captured commuters through the steamed up windows on the bus. The photos have a striking painterly quality to them that actually reminded me of the works of Irish painter and street artist Conor Harrington.
This photography exhibition of nocturnal London is an absolute must if you’re interested in street and documentary photography, history, anthropology, and of course London. You can find more information about the show, opening times and prices here.
2. Tish Murtha: Works 1976-1991 – The Photographers’ Gallery (until 14 October 2018)
The Photographers’ Gallery in Central London is probably one of my favourite photography galleries, together with Foam in Amsterdam. It was quite a fun coincidence to see Tish Murtha’s solo documentary photography exhibition there this week just two weeks after seeing some of her photos for the first time in above-mentioned London Nights.
Again I found myself fascinated with Murtha’s raw black and white photo series. This time not only of Soho’s infamous sex industry, but also the grim reality of ‘normal’ people in 1970s/80s deprived North East England. The bleak streets filled with derelict ruins could have easily been set in the post-war East End. Again, this photography exhibition is a real must-see if you’re interested in historical documentary photography. For more information, click here.
3. Alex Prager: Silver Lake Drive – The Photographers’ Gallery (until 14 October 2018)
The final photography exhibition in today’s list of recommendations is significantly different from the previous two shows I’ve mentioned. Although it might seem appear otherwise at times, Alex Prager’s brightly coloured photographs aren’t documentary photographs capturing everyday people at all. Instead, Prager’s cinematic Tehnicolor photos are carefully staged and sometimes portray famous Hollywood stars which makes sense once you know Prager is a LA-based photographer and filmmaker.
Her carefully crafted tableaux featuring characters whose hairdos, clothing and make-up resonate the 50s and 70s and often have a Hitchockian feel to them. Besides a great collection of photographs, the current exhibition at The Photographers Gallery also shows 5 short films directed by Prager including one featuring Bryce Dallas Howard. You can find more information about the show here.
Seeing the Alex Prager exhibition so shortly after the two documentary photography shows not only made for a good contrast, but also allowed me to explore the wider range of photography. It reminded me that although I appreciate documentary photography for what they are, i.e. visual documentation of history, I also admire the cinematic quality of well-crafted photographs. For this reason, it makes perfect sense to me to list these three different photography exhibitions in today’s recommendation list. I hope you get to see some of these shows!
Do you have a preference for historical documentary photographs or would you rather see staged images that draw from cinema and fashion photography? Let me know your thoughts!
Thanks, Zarina xx