Five photography shows

Published 15 January 2015

From historic innovation to harrowing photojournalism – here's a snapshot of the best photography shows to see this season.

1. Salt and Silver: Early Photography 1840 – 1860, Tate Britain, London

50% off with National Art Pass

This is the first exhibition in Britain devoted to salted paper prints – one of the earliest forms of photography. The process, pioneered by William Henry Fox Talbot, had a specifically soft and luxurious aesthetic, which has become a recognised icon of modern visual language. Owing to their fragility few survive, making this a very rare opportunity to see some of the incredible still lifes, landscapes and portraits produced using this method. (25 February – 7 June)

2. Historic Photography, National Museum Cardiff

Free to all

An ordinary family from rural Swansea were the surprising pioneers of image production in the 19th century. The Dillwyn Llewelyn siblings – John and Mary – began experimenting with photographic techniques just a year after Henry Fox Talbot; Mary Dillwyn Llewelyn is the earliest known female photographer in Wales. While his sister captured images of family life and social activities, John was besotted with the south Wales landscape. Original examples of the siblings' work is shown here, alongside a wider selection of pictures that have been digitised as part of the project (24 January – 9 April).

3. Human Rights, Human Wrongs, The Photographers' Gallery, London

Reduced price with National Art Pass

More than 200 original press pictures drawn from the Black Star agency’s collection feature in this exhibition documenting photo reportage of international conflict. Beginning in 1945 and spanning up to the early 90s it examines political upheavals, struggles against racism and colonisation and experiences of living through war. Included are images capturing the civil rights movement in the US, famine and fighting in Biafra and the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia (6 February – 6 April).

4. Nick Waplington/Alexander McQueen: Working Process, Tate Britain, London

50% off with National Art Pass

Waplington’s photographs capture the creative journey behind McQueen’s final Autumn/Winter collection, Horn of Plenty. The show – featuring geisha-faced, glossy lips models with upturned baskets, lampshades and umbrellas on their head – celebrated his personal career highlights. McQueen reused silhouettes and fabrics from previous collections, while the set featured discarded elements from his other catwalks. Here candids of the designer at work are shown alongside photographs of recycling plants and landfills – themes that inspired the Horn of Plenty collection(10 March – 17 May).

5. Diane Arbus, Kirkcaldy Galleries, Fife

Free to all

Diane Arbus' square, black-and-white photographs of individuals on the margins of society polarised critics – she herself was afraid of becoming known as 'the photographer of freaks'. This exhibition includes 20 pictures which reflect the social, political and economic changes that were taking place throughout the United States between the 1950-70s (14 February – 31 May).

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