London Festival of Photography - events and exhibitions show city in pictures

16:53 08 June 2012

Steve Bloom shows a set of images from Apartheid-era South Africa

Steve Bloom shows a set of images from Apartheid-era South Africa

(c) Steve Bloom / stevebloom.com

The London Festival of Photography has returned for its second year and is taking place throughout June with a focus in King's Cross, Bloomsbury, Euston and Fitzrovia.

Encompassing street, documentary and conceptual photography, the festival - which runs until June 24 - includes 18 exhibitions and 30 satellite events including workshops, talks and screenings.

The festival is dedicated to showcasing the best of contemporary and historic visual storytelling, encouraging dialogue about a wide variety of current social and political issues, and establishing a platform for photographic practice and learning.

The shows vary in style and format, presenting a comprehensive mixture of disciplines with work from both established and emerging photographers.

I started the multi-event crawling on the opening night at the Guardian Gallery in King's Place, that shows a set of classical images from Apartheid-era South Africa by one its most renowned practitioners, Steve Bloom.

His work spans more than 20 years of the tensest period of the Rainbow Nation's history, during the social conflict that eventually led to the release of Nelson Mandela and the end of the racist regime.

I moved on to the more intimate surroundings of Minnie Weisz Studio on Pancras Road, where Ms Weisz explores the identity of spaces, particularly buildings on the brink of change, such as the Great Northern Hotel, or the Fish & Coal Offices in King's Cross.

She investigates the context and social history of these sites, which worm their way into the photographic process. Although persons are sometimes introduced in her pictures, she tends to leave them out, using installations of found objects – a suitcase, shoes, and an old pair of roller skates - to author fictional memories of a building's past.

Just across the road, I ventured into the cosmopolitan milieu of the St Pancras International station, where the area around the Source Food facilities is inhabited by a great display of images portraying the Great British Public.

This multi-disciplinary show celebrates the extremes and quirks of life on our islands - from military funeral parades to centenarians; from pomp and pageantry to cottage industries, from Hackney in London to the most northernmost island of Orkney in Scotland, via New Brighton, the Black Country and beyond.

The artists include John Angerson, Nick Cunard, Peter Dench, Liz Hingley, Zed Nelson, Martin Parr, Ben Roberts, Simon Roberts, Arnhel de Serra, Chris Steele-Perkins, Ewen Spencer, Homer Sykes and Giulietta Verdon-Roe.

I strolled on to King's Cross station to peruse the Contemporary London Street Photography exhibition.

No art form captures city life quite like street photography, and this exhibition is a celebration of both the timeless nature and distinctive quirkiness of the Big Smoke through photographs.

A large-scale wall display, housed in the newly-refurbished King's Cross station, presents Londoners at play and at work through carefully chosen images from some of the UK’s top street photographers. Contributors include Gary Alexander, Damian Chrobak, George Georgiou and Zbigniew Osiowy.

And then to the street party and official opening at the Dog Eared Gallery, with a more comprehensive set of the Great British Public, of which my favourite is the insightful study of centenarians by noted photographer Chris Steele-Perkins.

The number of people over 100 in the UK is set to double by 2020. So what’s it like to reach that age? The answer is an intimate and compassionate portrayal of elderly people, with inspiring stories to compliment the well-edited set of pictures.

See more details of the London Festival of Photography

Reviewed by Julio Etchart - www.julioetchart.com

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