Written by Photography

Photos in London

The Photographer’s Gallery might still be closed, but there are loads of excellent exhibitions of photos in London at the moment, and I’m struggling to keep up!
At the National Portrait Gallery they’ve just opened the annual Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize exhibition. It’s only a couple of quid to get in, and it’s well worth it. There are some amazing photos on display. There are the usual range of commercially commissioned photographs of celebrities – Keira Knightley is prominent in the exhibition’s advertising, but Dolly Parton and Peter Crouch are also featured – as well as photography from around the world. A few photos are there to shock, at least a little, but mostly they’re just beautiful. A surprising number of the shortlisted photos are of friends of the photographer. If there’s one thing that slightly disappoints me, it’s that everyone featured seems to already have some background. Perhaps they just put themselves forward more than others, or simply they’re “better”. Anyway, a quick flick through the rules suggests that it’s a simple process to enter as long as you have a model release! Well worth a visit.
Also at the National Portrait Gallery is a small exhibition of behind the scenes photos of Private Eye which is celebrating it’s glorious 50th anniversary. Lewis Morley was the man who took that shot of Christine Keeler, but his photos of the various staff of the Eye larking around are well worth a trip at the same time. Especially if you’re an Eye fan like me.
At the Queen’s Gallery behind Buckingham Palace is a wonderful collection of photos from the Antarctic – The Heart of the Great Unknown. This wonderful exhibition displays the work of two incredible photographers who accompanied Scott and Shackelton to the Antarctic at the start of the last century.
George Herbert Ponting accompanied Captain Scott’s ill-fated exhibition to the South Pole. He didn’t actually make the final party of five – all of whom were to die – but was there at their base camp documenting the wonders of that region of the world. He was a true artist and his work is stunning. He gave a camera to the five who were to make the final push to the pole, and the photos they took of themselves, which were recovered along with their bodies, are featured here.
Frank Hurley, the Australian photographer, accompanied Earnest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition on the Endeavour. Famously, the ship became trapped in the ice, which was unusually severe that year, and for many months the expedition simply had to drift with the ice, and they remained on-board their ship. Finally, the ship began to be crushed by the ice, and the crew decamped – retaining as many provisions as they were able to. Hurley had to choose which of his photos (and film) he took with him! There then followed a truly epic struggle for survival as Shackleton led his men in their lifeboats to Elephant Island, before he took a smaller team on the mammoth journey in a tiny lifeboat to South Georgia to try to raise help from the whaling station. Hurley remained on the island, and three months later, Shackleton finally returned on a vessel that was able to recover his men. They all survived. Hurley’s photographs record that epic struggle and bring to life one of the most truly remarkable ordeals in history.
I can’t recommend this exhibition highly enough!
Then there’s the annual World Press Photos as the Southbank. These are news-based stories – with a smattering of sport, and there are some incredible shots. Some are appalling, and some are magnificent. The photograph by Thomas P Peschak that won the nature prize is stunning. Seen blown up, it’s a simply superb shot. One photo, of a disfigured girl in Afghanistan, appears in both the Taylor Wessing and World Press Photo exhibitions. It’s free entry, so worth catching if you’re near the Southbank.
And that’s all before going to the slightly larger Private Eye exhibition at the V&A, their new photographic gallery, an interesting sounding Soviet Art and Architecture exhibition at the Royal Academy, the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the National Gallery, and the forthcoming Lanscape Photographer of the Year exhibition at the National Theatre.