Ten Of The Best From Photo London 2024 – Nico Kos-Earle

Photo London Artlyst

This is the ninth edition of Photo London and perhaps the most exciting edition of the Fair to date, showcasing over 120 global exhibitors alongside a series of major special exhibitions. Here are our top picks:

Photo London Artlyst
Photo London 2024 Joost Vandebrug at Bildhalle Gallery Photo PC Robinson © Artlyst 2024

Ten years ago, I wrote about a heart-wrenching documentary film, Bruce Lee and the Outlaw, a story that evolved out of the exchange between photographer and subject – in this case, street children living in the underground tunnels of Bucharest. Vandebrug, initially commissioned for a photo essay, was instead compelled to follow this outsider community, who learned to trust him, gave him access to their underground world, and eventually came out into the light. The resulting film was screened at more than 50 film festivals around the world, winning dozens of international awards and a five-star review @guardian

Fast forward to Photo London 2024; he is one of the most feted international fine art photographers working today. We see a single image pixelated in his works at Photo London. On closer inspection, we find a grid of photo emulsion transfers on hand-made mulberry paper cards, held in place with etymology pins – like a butterfly’s wings. “I would say that the sensitivity and fragility of historical photographic techniques often run parallel to my subjects and desire to embrace any imperfections and ‘accidents’ as part of the process.” In his works, both the successful and accidental (light and dark) form a cohesive whole. Up close, we see many moments – far away, we perceive only one. Joost leaves gaps around each fragment and in places where the image was corrupted. Each card is delicately nailed in place, slowing down time, which Joost describes as “a form of artistic meditation“. They speak to the fragmentary nature of our existence and the fluid aspect of memory. They also continue the theme of exchange, made from Japanese paper typically used for business cards and the need for a respectful pause during an encounter. This includes viewers and works of art; they invite intimacy, manifest only when you give something – or someone – time.

Baud Postma at Roland Belgrave Photography

A beautiful discovery for Artlyst was the series ‘A SLOW DANCE’ by fine art photographer Baud Postma. This ongoing series began amidst the strange isolation of 2020 coronavirus lockdowns. Baud found solace in the simple act of bringing flowers into his London home. In this quiet time, he focused on individual stems, capturing the gradual unfolding of a single bloom, patiently observing the subtle movement of petals in the shifting daylight. Capturing these in long exposures on light-sensitive paper, the resulting images have the blurry quality of seeing wild flowers lying in a summer field on the periphery of your vision.

“The project began at an unprecedented point when our relationship to both time and mortality fundamentally shifted,” says Baud in his artist’s statement. One could interpret this series as a meditation on the passage of time within the tradition of Memento Mori. “While these themes may have played a subconscious role, the aesthetic and ideas around Ikebana were more central to the project. The Japanese art of flower arrangement, Ikebana (生け花), literally means ‘giving life to flowers’; the practice attempts to bring nature and humanity closer together, something which had an obvious relevance and appeal during the nationwide lockdowns spent in a London apartment.” Baud also takes portraits of artists and curators, such as the sculptor Guy Haddon Grant, who is also currently showing ‘Chimaera’ at the Niso Gallery (and a haunting picture of Nicholas Cullinan) – a reminder of the relationship between photography and sculpture, which manifests in the production of works. 

Johnny Mae Hauser at Homecoming Gallery 

Yesterday, at Photo London, I was blessed with a sequence of interviews with exceptional photographers, but when I turned the corner into the space curated by Homecoming Gallery, it took my breath away. It was like stepping into the visual equivalent of intuition or what might be described as a glimmer. Enchanted by the soft, harmonious colours and the sensitivity of a simultaneously intimate and universal vision, I would even venture these works were transcendent. Johnny Mae Hauser is a Dutch-German artist who tethers her lens to the obscure existence of human emotion and what tiny flickers of light capture her imagination and reflect her state of mind. Hauser’s use of colour is intuitive and harmonious, foregrounding the blurry outline of things perceived but not yet processed. Monochromatic in nature – a pause – they sit beautifully in sequence and highlight the serendipitous relationship of encounters. They seem to invite us to complete the image with our imaginations and hold space for introspection, daydreaming and intimacy

Aakash Malik for  #CreateCOP

Often, the conversation around fine art photography is about production because that is an essential aspect of the work and an opportunity to explore underlying concepts (aka substrates). This takes us into the sculptural realm. But photography is also about being able to frame something in the moment – and this work ‘Escaping Inferno’ by Aakash Malik for #CreateCOP is a masterpiece. The small figure of a boy, desperately throwing water into the blaze, is terrifically illuminated by the firelight. #CreateCOP is an open call that generates conversations around the urgent need for climate justice. Developed as part of Art Partner’s commitment to producing creative and purposeful climate initiatives through captivating, visual storytelling, it hopes to amplify the call to climate action by providing a platform where the next generation of concerned creatives can be seen and heard.


Giuseppe Lo Schiavo at Spazia Nuovo

A pile of papers was on the wooden floor beneath a luminous photographic work in the form of a large window. Underneath the word ‘manifesto’ was the line’ nature as perversion’ followed by a sequence of lines… on the back, it begins, “In a world where nature is often romanticized, commodified, and seen as separate from humanity, our relationship with it has become perverted…”

Giuseppe Lo Schiavo, or GLOS, is an Italian-born visual artist and researcher currently based between Milan and London. After collaborating with the MUSE Museum of Science of Trento on a pioneering project about synthetic biology alongside the international research program ACDC, in 2022, Lo Schiavo introduced the concept of ‘synthetic photography’ – an approach to image creation that involves computer-based methods as opposed to traditional camera-based processes. Highlighting our disconnection from nature through the very thing that disconnects us, GLOS is making giant windows onto this manipulated world, which capture our attention in the same way that computer screens do. Does this further alienate us from the very thing his manifesto is proposing or show how we are complicit?

Polly Penrose at Messums London

We need to talk about the work of this phenomenally talented artist, Polly Penrose, represented by Messums London, where I discovered her job last year. Penrose has been taking self-portraits on a ten-second timer and, more recently, a remote for nearly 20 years. Her work is unpremeditated and spontaneous, recording her automatic response to a situation or environment. They are correctly arresting but also elegantly composed. We are seduced by the drama, sometimes wonderfully hilarious, which gives us access to the surreal. You can never unsee it. In this, she magically processes notions of female identity – and the opposed notions of vulnerability and empowerment – into comi-tragic stills. 

Thomas Devaux at Galerie Bacqueville 

Dramatic in a different way at Galerie Bracqueville is a solo presentation of the Paris-based artist Thomas Devaux saturated in #yvesklein blues and mellifluous #gold glowing against the dark walls of a very chic booth. Alluring, seductive and very insta-friendly, at first, we are deceived. Drawn in by the interplay of our reflections against the ghostly negatives of figures seen from behind, we linger. Then we begin to see that underneath their shimmering beauty is a strange mundanity, horror even, that mirrors the trap of consumerism disguised as attraction. This is what Devaux calls ‘C E T O B S C U R O B J E T D U D E S I R’. More like sculptures, these photographic works are created out of Dichroic Glass, a two-tone glass with a mirror effect, which changes colour depending on the light it reflects, available as the result of materials research carried out by NASA. They are stunning.


Photo London Artlyst
Sian Davey at T J Boulting Photo London 2024

Always a surprise at T J Boulting, this year at Photo London saw the installation of a Chelsea Flower Show level garden by Sian Davey, accompanied by a monograph. Unsurprisingly, the garden was rammed with numerous people wanting to sit in the pink chair at its centre and take selfies or inhale the sweetness. On the chair was Daveuy’s book, ‘The Garden’, which documents the story of the actual garden the artist made when she turned her attention to her backyard and how its transformation not only mirrored her own but inspired others to come and sit with her in the space she held. So much humanity was invested in this garden that it’s difficult to capture in words the effect it had on those attending the fair, but it provided us with an idea to step into by contrast to the stream of images. What surprised me on my three return trips throughout the day was how few people noticed that the artist was present, quietly looking on at the spectacle, both bemused and unsurprised. Fortunately, when I spoke to her, she shared the extraordinary story of its genesis – a story of creativity triumphing over the dark, cloying, insidious nature of abuse – a story I would love to tell in a longer article…

Azadeh Ghotbi at Victoria Law Projects 

Azadeh Ghotbi is an Iranian American artist living and working in London, showing two series: Nature of Light and The Shape of Light. Initially a painter in the tradition of abstract geometry, Ghotbi began embracing photography as a complementary medium to sharpen her sense of observation and focus on light. “I owe photography a whole new way of seeing“, she says. Her photographs are light paintings that challenge the stillness of photography. Instead of freezing for a moment, her photographs appear to “unfreeze” as if the click of the camera were an injection of energy. Shot entirely in the mountains of Norway, The Nature of Light series is based on the alchemy between changing natural light, time, movement, and space. The artist liberated herself from prior static in-studio work by fluidly moving her camera, as she would her paintbrush, to capture the essence of the colours provided by natural light. Digital pixels appear like brushstrokes, blurring the line between painting and photography while playing with the viewer’s sense of perception. In London, Ghotbi trailed her lens on city lights, shooting entirely in the darkness of the urban night, which gave rise to The Shape of Light series. The artist says, “The magic of photography for me is capturing and sharing what’s already there, but others may not see.” A powerful, uplifting tonic to the problematic space she occupies as an Iranian woman of the diaspora.  

10.  Banksy by Chris Levine at Camera Work Gallery

This is Banksy. I would love to see this work writ large in Piccadilly. We need to have more conversations about public art and who is in control of our visual diet. Give artists—not marketing professionals—the chance to create images for our public spaces. Thank heavens for artists like Banksy and JR doing it anyway. The question is, did Levine get a front view of this elusive figure? 

Photo London: The fair’s ninth edition opens its doors at Somerset House from 16 to 19 May, Preview Day 15 May 2024.

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