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Photo London 2024 by Danny Gralton


The ninth Photo London event took place last May in the cobbled courtyard and across four floors and three wings of Somerset House in central London. With over 120 exhibitors representing work by more than 400 photographers from around the world, plus talks, tours, awards and book signings, it was a busy few days. London-based photographer Danny Gralton attended and took some pictures of exhibited photographs and moments that caught his eye.

Happening upon one of Senegal’s best known photographers, Omar Victor Diop, was too good an opportunity not to record and he stood for a photo before some of his collaborative work for The Anonymous Project. Looking at  Kodachrome slides taken by amateurs in the 1950s and ‘60s, the project’s founder Lee Shulman found himself questioning the class basis of the photographs in his collection. Taken by members of the white middle-class, the slides project a privileged, racially divided world and, in Being There, what was occluded makes itself visible by staging Diop’s presence within some of them.

As part of a programme of unique and compelling talks and interviews, Shulman and Diop discussed their work in conversation with art historian and curator Taous Dahmani. Another unmissable talk brought together Magnum photographer and photojournalist Peter van Agtmael and the journalist Sean O’Hagan who writes regularly about photography for the Guardian and the Observer newspapers in the UK. In his latest book, Look at the USA, van Agtmael continues his fascination with America’s compulsion to inflict war and grief on other nations and the disturbing way this resonates with aspects of the country’s psyche. In his book, he is seen as a child in ersatz army fatigues but growing up and becoming a photographer embedded with American, Iraqi and Afghan militaries quickly robbed van Agtmael of childish illusions about the nature of war. O’Hagan, with cerebral intent, engaged the photographer in a hugely interesting and probing conversation.

Empty seats were equally non-existent for a talk introducing The Lee Miller Archives, formed when Lee Miller’s son, Antony Penrose, found boxes of her photographs in the attic of her East Sussex home after her death in 1977. Her work as a trail-blazing photographer had been hidden there by her and buried under the post war celebrity cook persona she had re-invented for herself.

The work of Helen Levitt remains irresistible and Zander Galerie, founded in Cologne in 1996 and with a gallery space that opened in Paris in 2023, attracted attention with its display of some of her photographs. Another exhibitor, Gerber & Stauffer Fine Arts, a private dealership from Switzerland, also paused Gralton in his tracks with its display of a photograph of the actor Willem Dafoe by Iranian-born Rahi Rezvani. Working for decades with illustrious names in the luxury, entertainment and performing arts industries, Rezvani has never before sold a single print of any of his works but the Swiss dealership was presenting small editions of already iconic photos as well as previously unpublished images from his private archive as a taste of what’s to come.

Currently representing over ten established international photographers, Flowers Gallery enjoyed a strong visual presence at Photo London with work by Edward Burtynsky. Camera Eye, founded in 1987 by David Bailey and the main representative of his work, did likewise and so too did Bildhalle founded in 2013 by Mirjam Cavegn in Zurich. Green Turban by Hendrik & Paula Kerstens and displayed by Bildhalle bore testimony to an intriguing project: ‘What started as a father’s series of portraits of his daughter, and then became a play on early Netherlandish portrait painting has gradually moved into a new phase. The daughter and model, Paula, since grown up, became more involved in the way she was portrayed. Paula has increasingly become the co-director of her self-image. The Paula series has therefore slowly changed over time into a series of self-portraits. With the photo studio as Denkraum and historical portrait painting as its frame of reference, it is a photographic exploration of female identity in the Low Countries’ ( Maartje van den Heuvel).

There were many highlights at Photo London 2024 and Danny Gralton’s photos artfully capture some moments that justify Flowers Gallery’s comment: ‘This year’s Photo London was back with a bang. Impressive booth displays, excellent discourse and a growing number of collectors.’

Sean Sheehan

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