Artists & Photographers

I don’t know how many art galleries there are in London. Tate Britain, Tate Modern, National Gallery, Courtauld Gallery, Dulwich to name just a few, but there are relatively few photography galleries – and most people might struggle to name even one. Of course there are art galleries that show photography at times, and even places like the V&A that have a tiny bit of space devoted to photography.

And London is of course home to what the Arts Council England have called their flagship photography gallery,the Photographer’s Gallery,and like many photographers I regard its lack of commitment to photography as a scandal; for most of the time it’s just another art gallery, if one that specialises in art related to lens based media.

It wouldn’t matter if England had a plethora of photography galleries, but with so few it seems almost criminal that when so little of the the AC’s money actually goes on photography what little it does provide doesn’t really go on photography rather than on conceptual art.

Of course it isn’t just London. We almost got a national photography gallery up in Bradford – never a good location, Birmingham would have been a far better choice. Or Manchester. Or Leeds. Or Sheffield. But even that promise more or less ended a few years back, with the final stab in the back being the decision to move the RPS collection to the V&A.

And too often that conceptual art which relies so strongly on photography is weakened by doing so. It seldom gives rise to good photography, perhaps because generally the concepts are so simple and so readily grasped that photographs are really superfluous, often little more than rather boring records. There have certainly been exhibitions at the Photographer’s Gallery that would have been preferable visually without the pictures.

This is something perhaps epitomised by the current Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize, with work by the four shortlisted on show until June 26th 2016. There is relatively little in the show to interest photographers or lovers of the photograph. There are a few fine images by Laura El-Tantawy, and some highly competent but slightly pedestrian images by Erik Kessels, the main feature of whose show is an old Fiat.

Even El-Tantawy’s work is disappointing here, at least for those who know her book* or web site ‘Shadow of the Pyramids‘; the work as seen here seem much like a a pale shadow of the book. Despite this, to my mind it stands fully a head or two above the others, but I suspect she will not be the winner. The DB Prize really isn’t about photography or photographers at all; Ben Luke ended his short review in the London Evening Standard with the phrase “Paglen is the best artist here“. The question isn’t who is the best photographer.

I got out my phone during the opening and took a few snaps in the two galleries containing the work. I still haven’t really worked out how to use it and got quite a few pictures of my feet as well as what I was trying to photograph. The light in the lower of the two gallery floors housing the ‘installations’ was pretty dim and quite a few images were unsharp, but most were OK. 

The camera on the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini isn’t the best around, but does a fairly good job, and with a little help from Lightroom- noise reduction in particular – the results look pretty much OK on the web.  Looking at the EXIF, all seem to have been taken at 1/35s f2.6 with the ISO varying from 320 to 800. For what its worth the focal length was 3.7mm, which appears to give a horizontal angle of view similar to a 30mm lens on a full-frame camera. Although the camera is said to be 8Mp and gives images 3264×2448 pixels, the images are curiously bereft in detail, giving similar image quality to my first digital camera which only had around a 2Mp sensor.

* I bought the book pre-publication at a discount. When I wrote my post about it here recommending you buy it, copies were still available at 88.60 Euros; now you can buy it through dealers for around £300 and you can expect the price to keep rising. I don’t often give good financial advice:-).


There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, the occasional small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.