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Since last year the exhibitor count has swelled from 98 to 108, and growing numbers are only part of the story. Participants come from all over the world to deal – 18 countries are represented at this staging – and are well positioned to do so in central London’s historic Somerset House, home to various cultural programmes and galleries.

There, from May 17-20, participants offer works from photography’s earliest days to the present.

“It sets photography in an art fair context on a par with top-end events such as Masterpiece London, Frieze Masters and PAD, all of which cater to the luxury end of the market,” vintage photography specialist Roland Belgrave tells ATG. Its international scope, he adds “is an important point as this brings in buyers from across the globe”.

Belgrave is among a strong – if small – contingent of dealerships with a historic focus. Bernard Quaritch, for example, exhibits a history of urban pictures, while Robert Hershkowitz, shows a selection of early masters such as William Henry Fox Talbot and Roger Fenton.

The preponderance of more recent pieces can be a frustration for those specialising in historic pictures; newer images naturally draw contemporary-focused collectors. However, there is reason to hope that a new wave of collectors is coming.

Very early works

“Many visitors enjoy seeing the very early photography we show,” says Paula Hershkowitz of Robert Hershkowitz, a regular exhibitor.

“For some these works were a revelation; our stand was an oasis. And we are starting to sell to a number of enthusiastic younger collectors at the fair, which looks encouraging for the future,” he says.

Others incorporate older photographs into a wider offering, such as Hans P Kraus. Its public programme exhibition on the legacy of Fox Talbot is accompanied by various contemporary artworks. The Howard Greenberg Gallery brings vintage fashion and classic 20th century photos.

It sets photography in an art fair context on a par with top-end events… all of which cater to the luxury end of the market

London events

Positioned between the first moments of mild weather and the capital’s heaving summer season, mid-May is lively with London photography events.

Auctions on May 17 (at Christie’s, Sotheby’s) and May 18 (at Phillips) coincide with Photo London’s opening.

There are also the simultaneous London Photograph Fair (see facing page), Photographica Fair (Fairs & Markets, ATG No 2340) and gallery exhibitions such as that at the Weiss Gallery (see page 36). Museum shows include Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art at Tate Modern and London Nights at the Museum of London.

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Antonio Biasiucci’s 'Skulls & Bread' (2018) is on the stand of Galleria del Cembalo. It is a unique piece composed of 16 images, each signed and numbered, and is available for £30,000.

If there are drawbacks to being cushioned by these occasions, Belgrave adds that “sales are not always fluid.

“Even though the turnout is huge, many are UK-based visitors who have come to the fair almost as if it were a museum – not something dealers necessarily wish for.”

But, he adds: “Challenges aside, it is the only fair in the UK that puts photography firmly on the map, and this is what I work for.”

Other exhibitors include David Hill Gallery, Galerie Ernst Hilger, Hamiltons, Blanca Berlín and Crane Kalman.

Organised by Candlestar, Photo London contains a number of extra events. The Master of Photography show features Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky this year, while the Discovery Section showcases 22 new and emerging galleries and artists.

The talks programme covers the Royal Photographic Society and pictures from the 1960s.

photolondon.org