Action to Australia, Rain to Iran: Photo London 2023 - FAD Magazine

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Action to Australia, Rain to Iran: Photo London 2023

This year’s Photo London  is above average, with two excellent special exhibitions (of Martin Parr’s recent work and ‘Writing her own script. Women photographers from the Hyman Collection’) and a generally high standard of presentation. Here are ten artists I liked from Photo London 2023:

Polly Penrose: ‘Oxford I, June 2011’ (top) and ‘Self Portrait Stuffed with Packaging Nuggets, Hackney, February 2021′

Polly Penrose has been making performative selfies for over twenty years with a combination of self-timer, selected space and a scramble into wittily odd positions. ‘It’s about my body fitting in and around and combining with what’s there in the space’, she says.  The Hyman Collection had three early works, nicely complemented by more recent examples at Messums.

Andreas Gefeller: ‘048-3 Rain’ 2020 at Atlas Gallery, London

A storm was hammering on the pavilion roof when I arrived at this image by Dusseldorf-based Andreas Gefeller. We’ve had more than enough rain recently, making it seem a little  perverse that he created more by asking a friend to fire a water pistol. Still, his composite artificial version of the phenomenon is alluring.

Leilah Jeffreys: ‘Spotted bowerbird egg’, 2022 at Purdy Hicks, London.

The Australian, known for her fabulously exacting photographs of birds, showed an egg in what is so far a one-off. At over a metre high, this print makes the most of the remarkably painterly pattern, which only develops close to the point of hatching.

Jan Schlegel at Echo Fine Arts, Vallauris

The German presented selections from his two long-running portrait series showing traditional and modern takes on tribal culture: one bank of indigenous Africans (‘Essence’, 2012 – ongoing), and another from ‘Tribes of Our Generation’ (2015 – ongoing, as shown above). How does he find his striking models? Schlegel told me that it tends to be a combination of one recommending others they know, and of people volunteering on the back of his Instagram. Does he travel the world for the ‘modern’ examples? No, he pays for them to fly to his studio in Munich!

Livia Marin: ‘Broken Things (b)’, 2023 at Duran|Mashaal , Montreal

Hang on, isn’t that a sculpture? Well, yes, but incorporating a photographic transfer process. This ingeniously qualified ceramic seems to have melted into improbable continuity, mixing destruction and restoration in a way which takes on a political dimension when we know that Marin deals with breakage and repair in the context of seventeen years of oppressive dictatorship in her home country of Chile – starting from the year of her birth in 1973.

Mohsen Bayramnejad: from the series ‘Morning Flâneuring’, 2012-13 at LS10 Gallery, London / Barcelona

The Tabriz-born professor of photography’s long early morning exposures capture Iranian scenes atmospherically, with transitory figures playing an almost ghostly role which also provides animation and a confirmation of scale. Grainy printing adds to the effect. From an all-Iranian presentation in the ‘Discovery’ section of younger galleries.

Michael Koerner: ‘DNA-7282L-7278R’, 2018 at Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago

These seductive little tintypes take on a troubling resonance once we know that Michael Koerner’s mother was an eleven year old living near Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, and his four brothers all died from the genetic effects of the atom bomb. By blowing through a straw, or dripping chemicals from an eyedropper onto tin plates, Koerner manipulates collodion to create sunbursts, explosions, amorphous shapes, and double helixes, all of which reference his family history.

 Al Vandenberg: from the series ‘On A Good Day’, 1975-80 at Augusta Edwards Fine Art, London

American commercial photographer Al Vandenberg moved here in 1974, and walked London to celebrating the energy of youth and city by makes pictures for himself. They straddle the street and portrait genres: he typically picked an interesting backdrop, and then waited for someone to pass by whom he felt would fit with it. ‘I photograph on a good day’, he said, ‘when I feel good and the subject feels good’.

Nasim Nasr: from the series ‘Forty Pages’, 2015 at Mars Gallery, Melbourne

Nasim Nasr left Iran in 2009 to pursue her photography more freely. She travelled widely prior to gaining Australian citizenship, and found that having an Iranian passport always attracted intense official scrutiny. Here she is with two images from a series which draw attention to that by adding to her self-portrait – cumulatively and digitally – what was stamped on the 40 pages of her passport during those years.


Adolpho Doring:Pool, Chile: Julie, Paris’, 2016 from the series ‘Posted 162 Grams’ at The Empty Circle, Brooklyn, USA

Mexican / American photographer Adolfo Dorman (1962-2016) found an innovative way to inject chance into the presentation of his highly controlled silver gelatin images of interiors and people. He posted 81 of each on Instagram, then matched those receiving similar numbers of likes, flipping a coin to decide which image should go on the left of the resulting diptychs. Knowing that doesn’t lessen our tendency to look for formal and narrative links between the paired images.

Photo London 2023, 11th–14th May 2023, Somerset House,  Photo London Digital 10th May – 29 May 2023, photolondon.org



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