Home Arts Martin Parr takes center stage at London Photo Show

Martin Parr takes center stage at London Photo Show

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Martin Parr, who is now recovering from a cancer diagnosis in 2021, will be celebrated as Photo London’s Master of Photography when the UK’s largest photography fair returns to London’s Somerset House in May.

Parr is the UK’s best-known photographer and one of the few practitioners of the medium to have developed a profile well beyond the industry. He also leads the group of documentary photographers who, over the past 50 years, have sought to explore and reflect the identity of the British Isles through what can sometimes – intentionally – appear to be haphazard.

“A hymn to the bright, slightly bonkers nation we call home”

A survey of the often daily images of Parr, taken over a period of 52 years, will occupy the entire East Wing of the Embankment Galleries at Somerset House. Expect colorful, vibrant and often amusing photographs of sleeping men under cloudy skies on pebble beaches, chippies and arcades, bun sales in village halls, tea breaks in wells of mine and pints of bitter in the workers’ clubs, of strikes and fights and of wealth and poverty, all of which seem to be becoming more relevant by the day.

Michael Benson, the co-founder of Photo London, says Parr’s photographs of the UK are “a hymn to the bright, slightly bonkers nation we call home”. Since the Brexit referendum in June 2016, Benson has been outspoken about the costs of such a nationalist endeavor for international events like Photo London. But, using Parr as a starting point, Photo London will this year focus on Britishness as an idea.

Female peers

Many of Parr’s most revered contemporaries in the UK are men. But there were, of course, many female photographers also working across Britain during her formative years. Many of them are just beginning to be recognized. In the opposite wing of the Embankment Galleries, London gallerist James Hyman will present a panorama of works by British female photographers. The exhibition, Write your own screenplay; Women photographers from the Hyman collection, was organized by the staff of Hyman’s Center for British Photography, which opened on Jermyn Street in London in January. It will be divided into two parts: the humanist documentary tradition and a more personal performative practice. The exhibition will include works by relatively overlooked artists like Jo Spence, Fay Godwin and Sarah Maple, as well as contemporary names such as Juno Calypso.

In February 2022, Benson and his wife and business partner, Fariba Farshad, agreed to sell a 25% stake in Photo London to Scott Gray’s Creo Arts Group, the organization behind Photofairs and the World Photography Organization.

Chinese photography

Gray launched a series of successful photography fairs in China, including Photofairs Shanghai, which opened in 2014. While he initially focused on giving Chinese collectors access to Western artworks, the reverse begins to occur; exhibitors of contemporary Chinese photography are beginning to enter the UK market.

Currently, 110 exhibitors from 55 cities will be selling work to Photo London, but the fruits of this partnership could enable Photo London to offer collectors a fascinating opportunity to acquire contemporary Chinese photography, alongside the best of British photography.

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