The fourth edition of Photo London presents an amalgamation of global investigations surrounding landscape and identity whilst staging the past, present and future of the experimental medium which dominates visual culture. 22 emerging artists and numerous galleries, including Almanaque, Mexico city, and Kana Kawanishi, Tokyo, are placed alongside highly influential pioneers of the ever-changing genre, including William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) who is credited as one of the first individuals to develop the origins of the chemical process, Somerset House, London, stages a chronology which highlights moments of major enlightenment, surrounding the functionality and aesthetics of photography and video.
101 galleries from 18 countries are in attendance, exploring a variety of visual themes including Edward Burtynsky’s (b.1955, Flowers Gallery) key concern: the impact of human activity on the planet. Criticising the often wasteful acts of man which clutter the earth, the artist is this year’s Master of Photography and is celebrated through a thorough presentation of varying aerial shots which forge a new idea of what landscape photography can comment upon.
The photographer exposes scenes of often unrecognised parallels between natural phenomena and lasting humanity; winding roadways mimic large river arteries whilst blocks of apartments create a new pattern on the earth’s surface, changing the definition of what once seemed natural. Beyond revealing the unescapable mark of today’s population, Burtynsky concludes on a cautionary note, namely in his new, rarely seen series Anthropocene, the title of the present geological age. Through urbanisation, mass pollution and the depletion of resources, the artist states that “now our species is having a similar effect [to the previous disasters of nature] – we are the equivalent of a meteor impact.”
In a similar vein, Unwavering Visions #3, an interactive, multi-media experience, combines more than 5000 photographic works and stages the collaboration of Alan Govenar, Jean-Michel Sanchez and Julien Roger as they dissect social change. Utilising the International Center of Photography’s, New York, extensive archive, the work delves into the details of the historic events which influenced the course of social development. Combining the two exhibitions, the comparatively minute history of man is placed alongside the immensity of the planet, questioning how photography has perhaps positioned itself as a moral exposer for these otherwise lost views.
Photo London runs 17-20 May at Somerset House. Find out more here.
1. Edward Burtynsky, Urban Renewal #5, City Overview from Top of Military Hospital, Shanghai, China, 2004.