Five photography shows

  • 22 March 2016

From early works by the founding father to a new series by a modern-day innovator, these are the photography shows to see this season.


Never a Bore: Deborah Devonshire and Her Set by Cecil Beaton

Memoirist, socialite and – prior to her marriage – one of the controversial ‘Mitford sisters’, Deborah Cavendish never expected to become a duchess: her elevation to nobility was the fortuitous outcome of the tragic death of her husband’s older brother. The self-styled ‘housewife duchess’ threw herself into the role, acting as the public face of the Chatsworth Estate and overseeing its restoration, as well as broadening the commercial activities to include a farm shop, design range and hotel. She was even known to take shifts manning the ticket office. Her circle of friends was predictably glamorous: artists, actors and politicians would gather at the country manor for lavish dinner parties and social events. These incredible occasions are captured here by the photographer Cecil Beaton, who was a regular guest at Chatsworth. On display are 65 of his intimately captured images, enhanced by his witty and insightful commentary on his subjects.


Fox Talbot: Dawn of the Photograph

While inventors had been experimenting with photographic methods for several decades, William Henry Fox Talbot’s breakthrough discovery of the positive-negative process is recognised as the defining moment: his technique would form the underlying basis of the practice for more than 150 years. The Science Museum Group holds the world’s most comprehensive collection of Talbot’s work, and this exhibition of highlights reveals how he was able to establish the medium in Britain, not just as a scientific method but also as an art form. Included are some of his earliest prints – on display for the first time – as well as his delicate capturings of natural specimens and a series of portraits he took of his friends and family.


Paul Strand: Photography and Film for the 20th Century

From his early career Paul Strand was highly experimental, breaking away from the Impressionist-inspired soft-focus aesthetic that was commonplace in the early 1900s, he fused documentary with fine-art practice to capture New York’s financial district, wharves, railyards and factories in a radical abstract style. His later work was inspired by his extensive travels across France, Italy, Scotland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Mexico, Egypt, Morocco and Ghana, during which he befriended a host of international writers, with whom he collaborated to create a series of photo books focused on social documentary and political change. The V&A brings together an extensive display of 200 highlights, shown alongside examples of his notebooks, sketches and personal cameras.


Wolfgang Tillmans

The first photographer and first non-Brit to win the Turner Prize, Wolfgang Tillmans is lauded as ‘the documentarian of his generation’. But while usually known for his casual, spontaneous approach to image-making, this exhibition focuses on the Neue Welt project that took him four years and multiple trips across the globe to complete. Aiming to capture the world as it exists today, it includes observational works taken in Argentina, Tasmania, Saudi Arabia, India, England and Papua New Guinea. It is the first series Tillmans has shot on a digital camera, yet the final prints remain completely untouched; the artist insists that he wants to present the viewer with exactly what was in front of the lens. A selection of 15 works from the Neue Welt series was acquired by GoMA with the support of the Art Fund in 2013.


Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers

Martin Parr turns his hand to curating in this exhibition, exploring how Britain has been documented by foreign photographers. Parr has selected the work of practitioners from across Europe, Asia and the Americas: Henri Cartier-Bresson documents the euphoria of King George VI’s coronation; Sergio Larrain captures London’s dizzying transformation during the postwar years; Hans van der Meer celebrates the rallying spirit of lower-league football and Tina Barney discovers life in Britain’s upper classes. The display aims to highlight how these photographers were inspired by their experiences in Britain and the effect that this had on their approach to image-making.

Tags: ExhibitionsWhat to see