The London art scene is dynamic and diverse, with a huge variety of galleries spread across the city. From the sleek style of Chelsea to the eclectic bustle of Piccadilly, the capital’s historic and contemporary photography exhibitions present an unrivalled opportunity to experience very best of this thriving genre. Here is our curated pick of the ten best photography galleries in London.
Michael Hoppen Gallery
Based on a quiet street in Chelsea’s upmarket district, the Michael Hoppen Gallery has been specialising in all forms of photography for over 20 years. The ground floor showcases exhibitions from world-renowned contemporary photographers chosen or represented by Michael Hoppen, such as William Klein’s striking photojournalism and editorial pieces which frame the open space. The staircase up to the second floor gallery is wallpapered with nostalgic features and reviews of celebrated exhibitions over the years, leading to a reading room displaying exhibits from the likes of Peter Beard around a well-stocked reference library. The gallery represents a long list of artists, covering fine art, wildlife, journalism, fashion and many other forms of photography, and it is well worth stopping by to sample what’s currently on show or to purchase unusual prints from some of the world’s best photographers.
The Michael Hoppen Gallery, 3 Jubilee Place, London SW3 3TD, United Kingdom
The Little Black Gallery
Just a short walk down King’s Road is The Little Black Gallery – a photography boutique with a room dedicated to the influential Irish photographer Bob Carlos Clarke. The gallery was founded in 2008 by Bob Carlos Clarke’s late wife, Lindsey Carlos Clarke, his agent Ghislain Pascal, and celebrity ‘It-girl’ Tamara Beckwith; it now represents over 25 leading photographers from around the world, in addition to managing the estate of Bob Carlos Clarke, whose iconic and provocative photographs of celebrities are instantly recognisable – some have even been donated to the National Portrait Gallery. Other exhibition highlights of the Little Black Gallery include the best of Alistair Taylor-Young, the English photographer and director best known for commercial and travel photography, and the best of Terry O’Neill, the British photographer who made his name shooting the showbiz stars of the 1960s.
The Little Black Gallery, 13A Park Walk, London SW10 0AJ, United Kingdom
In the swish Piccadilly Arcade, Snap Galleries is a destination for music lovers and fans of cult figures from the history of contemporary rock and pop music, curated by owner Guy White. The gallery moved from Birmingham just three years ago and is now a popular stop for tourists and busy Londoners, drawn in by the compelling displays and music emanating from within. Despite its small size, Snap Galleries has produced a number of remarkable shows, including a pioneering exhibition of previously undiscovered work by the enigmatic French photographer Roger Kasparian, who photographed international music stars, such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Kinks when they visited Paris in the 1960s. In another unique series, the gallery displayed incredible images of David Bowie, taken by Japanese photographer Masayoshi Sukita, who shot Bowie periodically between 1972 and 2002. For collectors, the gallery has launched a new initiative in connection with the ‘Jimi Hendrix by Donald Silverstein’ exhibition; the Copyright Collection offers the chance for the buyer to own an unpublished print alongside the copyright, to ensure that the piece is completely unique and exclusive.
Snap Galleries, Piccadilly Arcade, 12A Piccadilly, London SW1Y 6NH, United Kingdom
Beetles and Huxley
Tucked away across the road stands Beetles and Huxley Gallery, one of the early success stories of the London photography scene. The gallery has exhibited many of Britain’s leading photographers, including Patrick Lichfield, Terence Donovan, John Swannell, Cecil Beaton, Bill Brandt, Paul Kenny, Brian Duffy, Norman Parkinson and Edwin Smith. Though the space is unassuming, the images speak for themselves, showcasing the very best of fine art photography. Beetles and Huxley now represent many international artists, and schedule several exhibitions each year.
Beetles and Huxley Gallery, 3-5 Swallow St, London W1B 4DE, United Kingdom
The Photographers’ Gallery
By far the most extensive and sophisticated exhibitions of photography can be found at the dedicated Photographers’ Gallery, which is perhaps more aptly described as a museum of photography, spread over five floors. There is no permanent collection, but exhibitions are carefully curated with an educational and historic focus. The gallery also hosts a bookshop, a café, and a lively series of educational and social events, making it a premier yet relatively underappreciated attraction for anyone out and about in the city.
The Photographers’ Gallery, 16-18 Ramillies St, London W1F 7LW, United Kingdom
The Getty Images Gallery is the largest independent photography gallery in London. The gallery is, of course, associated with the Getty Images archive, which contains unrivalled collections of historic and contemporary photography and photojournalism. The converted industrial space in the heart of London holds more than 12 annual exhibitions and events that collectively tell the story of cultural, social and historical development across the globe. Amongst many a historic gem, some images stand out, such as a stunning photo of Robert Falcon Scott in an ice cave on his Antarctic exhibition, and the infamous shot of Emmeline Pankhurst arrested outside Buckingham Palace. In addition, many a familiar face from music, film, and popular culture can be seen hanging on the walls, eternally preserved in their glory days. Be sure to check the website for updated information on current exhibitions.
The Getty Images Gallery, 46 Eastcastle St, London W1W 8DX, United Kingdom, +44 (0)20 7291 5380
Atlas Gallery in Marylebone is a boutique gallery full of character, specialising in 20th century photography, photojournalism, and fashion photography. Having celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2014, the gallery continues to curate around six unique exhibitions each year, and is the official agent of Magnum Photos in the UK. Although Atlas is developing into contemporary photography, its forte is in vintage prints, such as Danny Lyon’s photos of the Outlaws biker gangs, on display in The Bikeridersexhibition during summer 2014.
Atlas Gallery, 49 Dorset St, London W1U 7NF, United Kingdom, +44 (0)20 7224 4192
Daniel Blau Gallery
In a quiet corner of Hoxton Square, Daniel Blau’s London gallery is a homage to the rich photographic heritage of the 20th century, offering an opportunity to purchase or admire seminal vintage prints. In 2014 the gallery hosted an anticipated exhibition of Robert Capa’s war photography from 1943 – 1945, Eyewitness – an exhibition featuring celebrated, Pulitzer Prize-winning historic photographs, and the J. R. Eyerman Rediscovered exhibition, showcasing the work of the Life magazine photographer, across both the London and the Munich galleries. The schedule is packed with rare and unique exhibitions, but since it is off the beaten track, only the discerning traveller discovers this hidden highlight of the London photography scene.
Daniel Blau London, 51 Hoxton Square, London N1 6PB, United Kingdom, +44 (0)20 7831 7998
The Wapping Project
The Wapping Project Bankside, created by director Jules Wright, is an expansive art space by the river, specialising in film and photography. It spun off from the original and acclaimed Wapping Project – an art innovation centre in a converted hydraulic power station – now closed down. The gallery represents pioneers of contemporary lens art, including Elina Brotherus, Annabel Elgar, Edgar Martins, Jeffrey Stockbridge and Mitra Tabrizian, and its exhibitions cover a plethora of contemporary themes, from The Rehearsal of Space and The Poetic Impossibility to Manage the Infinite to Turning the Season: Scenes from a Contemporary Marriage.
The Wapping Project Bankside, 65 Hopton St, London SE1 9LR, United Kingdom, +44 (0)20 7981 9851
One of the earliest specialised photography galleries in London, Hamiltons, founded in 1977, offers novel perspectives on some of the giants of 20th century and contemporary photography. In a striking exhibition space, the likes of Irving Penn and Annie Leibovitz have had their work displayed in a honed and evocative environment. The gallery has cultivated a reputation for representing the true masters of the field, and it is unsurprising that their exhibitions never fail to reflect this level of prestige.