The first ever photography exhibition took place in London in 1858 at what was then the South Kensington Museum and today is known as the Victoria and Albert Museum. The Photographic Society of London donated 1009 prints and 250 came from the celebrated Société française de photographie. Today, photography as an art form is celebrated in galleries across the UK, with the number of shows increasing every year. Galleries are also supporting and nurturing national and international talent. Here are some of the best photography galleries in the UK:
The Photographers’ Gallery
Launched in 1971, The Photographers’ Gallery six-storey premises at 16-18 Ramillies Street, London is considered one of the most important international venues dedicated to photography. The Photographers’ Gallery offers the most extensive and sophisticated exhibitions and events, each carefully curated and which focus on emerging talent, established artists and historical archives. Famous for iconic shows, including those from Viviane Sassen, Edward Steichen and many more, the venue also hosts the annual Deutsche Börse Photography Prize as well as a programme of talks and events.
Michael Hoppen Gallery
Set up in 1993, the Michael Hoppen Gallery focuses exclusively on exhibiting photography. The ground floor showcases exhibitions from world-renowned contemporary photographers chosen or represented by Michael Hoppen, such as William Klein. Contemporary work is displayed on the second floor, from well known photographers including Daido Moriyama, and rising stars such as Desiree Dolron to newly discovered talents. The gallery represents a long list of artists, covering fine art, wildlife, journalism, fashion and many other forms of photography.
Opened in 1977 Hamiltons is famous for displaying and selling the work of some of the giants of twentieth-century photography. This includes superb black-and-white portraiture by Irving Penn, Helmut Newton, Annie Leibovitz and Herb Ritts. Works shown in this striking exhibition space also include architectural photography by Tadao Ando and a show of Tomio Seike’s almost painterly images of Brighton beaches. Hamilton’s offers a novel perspective on some of the giants of photography.
Beetles and Huxley
Showcasing the very best of fine art photography, Beetles and Huxley represent many international artists, and hold several exhibitions every year, including big names such as Cecil Beaton, Patrick Lichfield, Bill Brandt, Terence Donovan, Norman Parkinson, Paul Kenny, John Swannell, Brian Duffy and Edwin Smith.
Best of the rest: photography galleries around the UK
Impressions Gallery, Bradford
Established in 1972, Impressions Gallery is one of the first specialist photography galleries opened in Europe. With an international reputation for photography that gets people looking, thinking and talking, Bradford is now the worlds first UNESCO City of Film. More than 50,000 people visit the not-for-profit gallery each year. One of the UK's leading independent venues for contemporary photography, Impressions Gallery has supported and encouraged artists who have challenged and changed photography, expanding peoples' perceptions and understanding of photography as an art form.
An example exhibition is No Man's Land: Women's Photography and the First World War offering rarely-seen female perspectives on the First World War, featuring images taken by women who worked as ambulance drivers, nurses and official photographers.
Based at 23 Cockburn Street Edinburgh since 1977, Stills offers exhibitions and production facilities to anyone wanting to discover, enjoy and understand photography. Stills exhibitions have included solo exhibitions from many photographers including Edinburgh-based Robin Gillanders and others such as Takashi Arai, Steve Best and Kate Davis. Stills also hosts the Jill Todd Photographic Award. Works from private photography collections and studio archives are also shown, including photographs from the Margaret Morris collection and Alan Dimmick's studio archive.
Stills is Scotland’s leading photographic production centre open daily, offering both black-and-white and colour darkrooms, digital workstations, scanners, printers and a dedicated video editing suite.
The National Science and Media Museum, Bradford
Home to the Kodak Gallery and offering temporary photographic exhibitions (Nudrat Afza’s photographs are on show from November 2017 – June 2018), the National Science and Media Museum offers free entry. The Kodak Gallery inside will take you through a full history of photography which includes a 19th century portrait studio and the first moving colour film that you can view.
Site Gallery, Sheffield
Site Gallery at 1 Brown Street, Sheffield is a leading international contemporary art space, supporting artists specialising in the moving image, new media and performance. Whilst not specifically focused on photography, the emerging of art practices and ideas at the Site Gallery connects people to artists and to art. Inspiring new thinking and discussion via public programmes and events, the Site Gallery is a venue to follow so you catch its next photographic exhibition or event. The Site Gallery is closed to the public until March 2018 for construction work, but the gallery continues to support emergent and established photographers to realise their ideas and produce work for exhibition.