Taking 98 dealers together in Somerset House, Photo London (May 18-21) is the key event seeking to position the capital as a centre of the international photography trade in mid-May.
Now in its third year, the fair is still relatively fresh to the scene, but in terms of size and spectacle it is chief in a season of photographyrelated events in London.
Other events include the venerable London Photograph Fair (see right), the photography sales at Christie’s and Phillips (May 18) as well as the PCCGB’s Photographica fair (see Fairs & Markets).
Photo London is a contemporaryled event. It features exhibitors such as Gazelli Art House and Victoria Miro, has a ‘Discovery’ section with emerging galleries and artists, and hosts a graduate photography award.
Surrounding events arranged by the fair to celebrate photographers living today and their work includes film-maker Ken Loach in conversation with photographer Joss Barratt.
Still, some dealers do find that historic works also find a good share of buyers at Photo London.
Early European photography specialists Paula and Robert Hershkowitz, for example, now count the fair as one of the highlights of their calendar, making it one of only two where they exhibit regularly.
“It’s a good thing to do to make contact in London,” Paula says. “A lot of the business we do during the year is with museums abroad and standing at the fair is a good way to meet clients that are new to the trade or who want to build up their collections.”
The other fair they show at is Paris Photo and, historically, the French capital has been the epicentre of the photography trade. Paula reflects that preferences in the UK remain slightly different, geared generally towards the contemporary.
However, it is possible that this edition of the London fair could be a stand-out for historic photos if the first part of the year is anything to go by.
“In the last six months we’ve noticed a big turnaround,” Paula says. “People have been building up bigger collections and we’ve had lots of interest from American museums and collections.”
“The fair is still relatively fresh to the scene, but in terms of size and spectacle it is chief in a season of photography related events in London
Perhaps the upturn is thanks to the political climate – as a general rule, high-end buying increases when the future seems more certain.
With the initial tumult of the Brexit vote and the US presidential election fading, and the result of June’s general election regarded as predictable, dealers across the market have reported that their clients are spending with renewed vigour.
Paula does not speculate on the political angle, though she does reflect that the results of the US election seemed to dampen the mood of the last Paris Photo which opened two days after it. She ventures only that buyers might be getting tired of “the obvious stuff, the bright and shiny” photographs that have led the UK trade in recent years.
If so, a contingent of early photography specialists are ready to meet new buyers at Photo London.
Joining Roland Belgrave and the Hershkowitzes are other specialists in early photography such as Atlas Gallery, August Edwards Fine Art and Galerie Johannes Faber, all bringing works from the 19th century and beyond.