On the 25th January the doors opened on the newly refurbished three floors of 49 Jermyn street, the Centre for British Photography.
Approaching from Piccadilly, I saw a long queue of people in Jermyn Street and I truly believed this to be for the new gallery of photography, as it was such an exciting turn of events, but it transpired there was a very popular night club on the other side of the road.
There is much activity in the photography world, The Photographers Gallery has a new director, Shoair Mavlian, the Victoria and Albert Museum has a new curator Fiona Rogers working with Parasol concentrating on women in photography. Peckham 24 festival has celebrated many emerging photography and PhotoLondon is a testament to the interest in photography in London. Photoworks is currently recruiting new director and a new CEO is in place at the RPS.
Even without the pavement queue joining the crowd, the entire Centre of Photography was teeming , if not rammed , with the photography community, of all generations. Promising two major group shows, four ‘in focus displays’ this space is to host a changing exhibition schedule and will highlight the Hyman Foundation collection which has been collecting photography from the UK since 1996.
Anna Fox from Fast Forward has curated one of the major exhibitions, of contemporary ( Headstrong) women artists on the ground floor, themed on self portraiture allowing each of the exhibitors to express the multiplicity of their female identities.
On this floor are previously unseen ( by me ) platinum palladium prints by Paul Hill, at a scale that I was greatly surprised by, mostly of his classic and most well-known 1970’s images with a 2021 Girl in Anorak from Matlock bringing them up to date. (For sale and a charitable donation ensues)
The English at Home, a title drawn from Bill Brandt, is the main downstairs exhibition and a huge Richard Billingham print of his mother greeted us as we descended.
This is a truly lovely exhibition drawn from the Hyman Collection, 150 pictures wending from Bill Brandts family home with maid servants, to the miner at home eating his tea, Edith Tudor Harts son Tommy sitting in his cot, through Bert Hardy of Picture Post acutely defining street photography, always on the look out, to the to the more conceptual or thoughtful 1970’s. Pictures that really stood out for me included Shirley Bakers gentle eye, observing and understanding children on the street without sentimentality, the beautifully made prints by Marketa Luscakova, the large and revealing Daniel Meadows prints inside the homes, or rather sitting rooms which reveal so much of the decade and the personalities within.
I have worked with many of the photographers in the exhibition, so it was a joyous feeling to see them celebrated in this way. Over the decades I have supported and exhibited and published many, from John Blakemore to Mark Power. At this busy opening I saw a lot of the photographers exhibited themselves, some in wheelchairs it has to be said, but all of them smiling! It was not physically possible to climb the stairs to the upper gallery that evening, as the swell of attendance was so great.
Copyright ⓒ Children of The Goorbals (Gorbal Boys) 1948 © Bert Hardy Estate
It is well worth going upstairs to see the resplendent Heather Agyepong Wish you were Here with mixed media, an artist represented by James Hymans gallery, she works with identity and race in the most intelligent way. Natasha Carruana Fairytale For Sale, Jo Spence Fairytales and Photography are major installations.
The opening speech by James Hyman was very supportive of contemporary photography. He eloquently expressed how motivated he felt about the excellent photographic work produced within the UK, past and present, that he felt was neglected and underrepresented.
Tellingly, he vowed to support The Centre for British Photography for two years and urged the assembled company to support and actively become involved. So be involved, enjoy the exhibitions, look forward to many more beautiful vintage prints from street photography to platinum prints of golden oldies, view the conceptual, radical, feminist contemporary work, buy prints, buy books and support this new endeavour. We will all watch with great interest as this Centre develops, in what is an exciting and definitive time in photography.
Gorbal Boys Image, Courtesy of The Centre Of British Photography
For Further Exhibitions Information, Opening Times & Address, Please Visit The Centre for British Photography
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