Spring Snapping

With photographic auctions and events happening this month, May is the month for photography

Preview by Andy Barnham

’tis the season, and I’m not talking about the ‘Ho! Ho! Ho!’ type, though to be fair if you’re gifted something photographic this month, the chances are you’ll be jolly. With numerous photographic fairs and auctions taking place in London this month, there’s enough to satisfy any wannabe, amateur, hobbyist or pro. Unfortunately, blink, and you may have missed all the fun. Two auctions, Phillips and Bloomsbury Auctions, are taking place at the same time in Mayfair, with an auction at Sotheby’s taking place a day later, whilst across town at Somerset House is the third iteration of Photo London; a fair aiming to be the best photographic fair globally where 99 of the world’s leading galleries will be exhibiting.

The auction at Phillips includes the ‘ULTIMATE CAMPAIGN’, nine images created for advertisement campaigns that appeared originally on billboards and magazines, commissioned by brands such as Alexander McQueen, Calvin Klein and Agent Provocateur. The photographers include fashion photographer greats Alasdair McLellan, Nick Knight, Bruce Weber and Ellen Von Unwerth featuring the household names of Gisele Bündchen, Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss (there’s a lot of Kate in the two auctions). In addition to the ‘ULITMATE’, and making up the rest of the 93 lots on offer are images from Helmut Newton, Horst P. Horst, Richard Avedon, Henri Cartier- Bresson, Herb Ritts, Sebasião Salgado… the list goes on. Down the road at Bloombury Auctions, the sale covers a range of subjects and photographers with highlights including 52 hand coloured prints of Japan from the 1860s – 1890s, cityscapes of New York in the early to mid-1900s as well as celebrity portraits of Madonna, a 19 year old Marilyn and Meg Ryan. Totalling 175 lots, the auction also consists of a number of photobooks. Sotheby’s offering is equally varied; whilst the highlights showcase emerging contemporary photographers such as Sohei Nishino (also on offer at Phillips), art/ fashion photography from Peter Linbergh, wildlife portraits by Nick Brandtand and nudes from František Drtikol ensure diversity among the 99 lots.

As you’d expect at Photo London, there’s a lot to see. Most of the well known galleries exhibiting can be found in the courtyard space while the remainder of the fair is in the main building spread out in both wings, the ground, first and mezzanine floors. If you’ve never been to Somerset House before, it can feel maze like on first impression, so to help visitors, there is an app of the fair and free wifi available, but for those out there who don’t like being glued to a phone, there’s also a map. Of the galleries themselves there is a mix of specialists, generalists, old, contemporary covering the spectrum of what photography has to offer. There is certainly a lot of black and white images this year and even for the most die hard fans of the industry trying to avoid going ‘snow blind’ can be difficult. Of course, not everything on offer will be to everyone’s tastes, but there will be enough gems hanging on the wall for everyone to find some inspiration.

Among everything on show, offer and sale, there are images considered ‘iconic’ (Madonna’s portrait, taken by Herb Ritts was the cover of her True Blue album), images seared into every photo student’s memory, including ‘that’ image by Cartier Bresson entitled Behind the Gare Saint- Lazare, Paris, of a person and their reflection mid jump alongside lessor known works. Before you nay say what’s on offer and think that auctions aren’t for you, just have a think; whilst Peter Beard’s Elui, Son of Nzenge Mambo is estimated between £70,000 – 100,000 and Nick Knight’s image for Alexander McQueen is estimated for £40,000 –  60,000, Marilyn at Bloomsbury Auctions is estimated at £800 – 1,200, a Helmut Newton is on offer at Sotheby’s for £2,000 – 3,000 with some images even less (the starting price at Bloomsbury Auctions is £100). Long and short, if you are keen, there could be something out there for you.

In case Photo London’s 99 galleries and these three auctions aren’t enough for you, there are over 20 photographic satellite events occurring across the capital. riddle_stop 2



18th May 2pm BST

Photographs, Phillips, 30 Berkeley Square, Mayfair, London W1J 6EX / www.phillips.com/auctions/auction/UK040117

18th May 2pm BST

Fine Photographs & Photobooks at Bloomsbury Auctions, 16- 17 Pall Mall / www.dreweatts.com/cms/pages/home

19th May 12pm BST

Photographs, Sotheby’s, 34-35 New Bond St, Mayfair, London W1A 2AA / www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/2017/photographs-l17780.html


18th- 21st May

Photo London, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA/ http://photolondon.org

And satellite event listings.


Image from Bloomsbury Auctions: Lot 118: Untitled, from the Blousons Noirs series, Yan Morvan, 1975, Est. £2,000-3,000

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