I have mentioned a couple of times on the blog that I feel really grateful for the experiences and opporturnities I have been given in London. I have not only been lucky but I have also been encouraged while being in the city to really put myself out there, to be brave and participate, and it has resulted in some pretty memorable moments for me.
Last year I volunteered to be a student speaker at a conference for the Bicentenary of the Norwegian Constitution at UCL which was a really fun experience to prepare and be a part of and which also got me invited to a dinner with the Norwegian ambassador. Last Summer I also won a competition to attend a Peirene Supper Club, where I got a chance to meet Meike, the publisher of Peirene and Norwegian author Hanne Ørstavik. And this year I have had the pleasure and honour of being a tour guide at the V&A.
On Wednesday I was lucky enough to get another amazing, incredible and inspirational opportunity, one I will remember for a long time. As a member of CreateVoice at the V&A I was invited by the V&A director Martin Roth to attend the Private Viewing of Photo London, a new international photography fair that takes place this weekend at Somerset House. Not only did I get to see the fair, I also got see it before it opened to the public yesterday. So it felt really special to be invited!
Photo London is an attempt to make London THE cultural city for photography by gathering over 70 galleries from all over the world to London to present and sell some of the amazing photography they have in their galleries, showing both historical photographs from Henry Fox Talbot and other 19th Century photography pioneers to contemporary artists like Annie Leibovitz and Sebastião Salgado.
It was exciting to walk through the small rooms at Somerset House with the other members of CreateVoice and see and talk about so many great photographs. I liked that it included so many different types of photography from old sepia-toned albumen prints of London to black and white portraits to more modern colourful cityscapes of Paris and New York. I especially liked the photographs in black and white or subdued colours showing scenes from city life or abandoned urban landscapes.
My favourite part of the show and the reason we had been invited in the first place, was to see the V&A museum’s exhibition Beneath the Surface, which featured photographs from the middle of the 19th Century to photographs taken only a few years ago. The idea behind the exhibition has been to dig beneath the surface of what is usually shown from the V&A’s photographic archive and to do an excavation of the archive to show photographs that have rarely or never been on display and to discover artists which have gone unnoticed until now. The idea was also to show the surface of the photograph as a material that has been experimented and played with through both historical and modern techniques but also to show images where the surface is the subject.The exhibition has been placed in the lower ground of Somerset House which gave it a cave-like feel when you walked around underneath the building and fit well with the idea of going beneath the surface of something.
I love the idea behind the exhibition of excavating and discovering both old and new artists and I loved the mix of old-sepia coloured albumen prints placed next to modern and white photogram experiments. I think that because it had been curated with an idea behind it instead of showing examplary pieces to be sold like in the other galleries upstairs, the V&A’s exhibition felt more like it was actually showing what photography is and what it can be.
I had so many favourites in that room and can’t possibly mention all of them but I really liked the traditional platinum photographs of Trees in Summer and Winter taken by Henry Irving, showing the same tree photographed from the same position at summer and winter time, showing how the tree changed with the season. I was also very fascinated by a series of black and white photographs by Elizabeth Williams called Weathering the Storm which showed a reflection on the surface of water as a storm passes over it and changes the reflection.
But my absolutely FAVOURITE part of that whole evening was seeing the only existing photobook of The Face of the Water by David Kronig. I thought it fit well with the overall idea of the exhibition but the reason I really loved these photographs was that there was something really poetic about the still images of moving water taking different shapes and creating different patterns on the surface. I really longed to be able to take my own copy home with me and just spend hours letting myself stare at them and drown in the images.
I thought the exhibition and the fair was very inspiration and it made me want to go either straight into the streets to take photographs of the city or to go straight home to experiments with photograms and cyanotypes.
It really was an incredible evening and I’m so glad I got to see it! The only regret I have is that I was so busy enjoying myself and taking in all the fantastic artwork that I forgot to take any pictures of the evening. Something I really wish I had done!
Photo London is only open this weekend 21-24 May but the V&A’s exhibition Beneath the Surface runs until August 24 and only costs £6 in entry! If you are in London and love photography you should definitely try to go see it!