Photography Shows: 5 To See

Aesthetica’s list of recommended shows brings together a range of international photographers and artists. Their images use classic visual techniques whilst delving into contemporary issues including human experiences in the urban, globalism, equality and industrial processes’ effect on nature.

Murray Fredericks: The Salt Lake | Museum of Australian Photography, Melbourne | Until 18 February 

In 2003, photographer Murray Fredericks first visited Kati Thanda–Lake Eyre, one of the world’s largest endorheic lakes, located in the deserts of central Australia. “The mind struggled to familiarise itself with the environment as there were no obvious ‘features’ or ‘points of interest’ to break up the surface,” says Fredericks, who returned 31 times to the desolate region. His compositions document the scenery and subvert traditions of landscape photography. In his latest series, Fredericks incorporated interventions with mirrors, and more recently, fire. Characterised by light, colour and space, the images capture the powerful view and unique experience of walking through a void without a sense of location or scale. 

Oli Kellett: Waiting for a Sign | Hackel Bury, London | Until 2 March

“I’m looking for a moment when somebody is psychologically removed from the physical space they are in, alone with their thoughts for a few seconds.” – says British artist Oli Kellett (b. 1983) who is fascinated by urban landscapes. Hackel Bury’s Waiting for a Sign collates the photographer’s cinematic Crossroad Blues series; people waiting at junctions in cities across the globe. The project began when Kellett visited Los Angeles during the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election. It continued to evolve over the following four years, resulting in countless visits to countries including Brazil, Colombia, Japan and Spain. The large-scale works contrast the anonymity of metropolitan life with individual human experiences. These photographs invite us to take a moment of conscious contemplation as we navigate busy spaces.

Saul Leiter: An Unfinished World | MK Gallery, Milton Keynes | From 12 February

American photographer Saul Leiter (1923 – 2013) is one of the most important practitioners of the post-war period. He is celebrated for his iconic images of New York City of the 1950s and 1960s. For nearly 60 years, Leiter documented daily life and the mundane beauty of the metropolis. His remarkable collection of around 15,000 monochrome prints, 40,000 colour slides and over 4000 paintings speaks of his subtle but unique visual style. MK Gallery’s exhibition is the largest presentation of Leiter’s work to date in the UK. Viewers can explore over 170 photographs that capture everyday life in the mega-city. Alongside the emblematic snapshots, a selection of 40 lesser-known paintings displays Leiter’s versatile talent. 

Burtynsky: Extraction / Abstraction | Saatchi Gallery, London | From 14 February

“I have spent over 40 years bearing witness to how modern civilisation has dramatically transformed our planet. At this time, the awareness of these issues presented by my large-scale images has never felt more urgent,” – says photographic artist Edward Burtynsky, whose show at Saatchi Gallery is a major review of his four decades long career. Extraction / Abstraction features 94 monumental photographs as well as 13 high-resolution murals. Besides these iconic snapshots, the public is invited to take part in an augmented reality experience, whilst a dedicated section delves into Burtynsky’s navigation through technological shifts in the photographic medium. The show focuses on the artist’s lifelong observation of humanity’s incursion into the natural world and the environmental consequences of industrial processes. 

Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize | The Photographer’s Gallery, London | From 3 Mar

The Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize – established in 1996 by the Photographers’ Gallery in London – rewards artists for their contribution to photography. In 2024, the finalists are Gauri Gill & Rajesh Vangad, Hrair Sarkissian, Lebohang Kganye and VALIE EXPORT. “This year’s shortlist reflects the exhibitions programmed and photobooks published in Europe in the past 12 months. It brings together a range of important themes showing the breadth of contemporary practice, such as feminist histories and performance, de-colonial histories, contemporary conflict and displacement and indigenous rights.” Says Shoair Mavlian, Director of TPG. Together, these artists demonstrate photography’s unique capacity to reveal what is invisible, forgotten or marginalised and imagine a path to redress social injustice.

1. Edward Burtynsky, Thjorsa River #1, Iceland. 2012 Flowers gallery, London.

2. Murray Fredericks, Blaze 27

3. Oli Kellett, CROSS ROAD BLUES (GREAT EASTERN RD., LONDON), 2019. Copyright The Artist

4. Saul Leiter, Pull, c. 1960. Copyright The Saul Leiter Foundation.

5. Edward Burtynsky, Uralkali Potash Mine #1, Berezniki, Russia, 2017, Flowers gallery, London.

6. Hrair Sarkissian, In Between, 2006 © Hrair Sarkissian, Courtesy the artist