'Shot In Soho' Photography Exhibition At The Photographer's Gallery
Shot In Soho is the new photography exhibition at The Photographer's Gallery in London celebrating the notorious one square mile radius inside the capital's historic West End, within which the gallery itself sits. Founded in 1971, the gallery has repeatedly returned to the theme of Soho, commissioning numerous bodies of photographic work with Soho as stimulus. Photographs from the gallery's 1983 group show London By Night featured in last year's Tish Murtha exhibition, and in 2014 curators introduced visitors to Soho through the lens of post-war photographer John Deakin. Now, Shot In Soho, curated by Julian Rodriguez and Karen McQuaid, returns to the theme of Soho in the face of CrossRail developments threatening the area's borders.
Sitting inside the John Lyon Gallery on the building's fifth floor the exhibition aims to present Soho as a site of culture, community and creative innovation, whilst also reflecting it as a site of resistance in the face of developers. It features Anders Petersen's 2011 Soho series originally commissioned by the gallery and a 1980s photo essay by William Klein, and also allowing us to peep inside Corinne Day's hallowed Brewer Street studio. Alongside these renowned photographers, the show also includes more unfamiliar bodies of work taken in Soho by Kelvin Brodie, Clancy Gebler Davies, John Goldblatt, and a newly commissioned series by Daragh Soden exploring Soho as a site for human connection.
Upon entering the space, Soho's regeneration in the 1960s lays the context for the show, with objects on display including planning letters and a charming illustration mapping out the area's pre-theatre supper spots and wine bars. The visitor is then led round the space by each photographic series, opening with Gebler Davies's photographs of The Colony Room Club and closing with Soden's 2018 project Looking For Love. With the addition of a room screening episodes from a podcast series commissioned by the gallery called Soho Then, the exhibition hones in on various eccentric characters captured in Soho's streets, alleyways, clubs and lodgings.
Given Soho's position as a centre around which the music, fashion, design, film and sex industries coalesce, the bodies of work chosen didn't fully capture the immersive experience of visiting Soho today. While the exhibition as a whole featured characters who populate these differing worlds, many were of Soho past, meaning the show was permeated by a sense of nostalgia. The exhibition missed a chance to draw the links between past and present, and root the Soho characters - and their cultural impact - in their surroundings.
The poignancy of contemporary works Looking For Love and Soho Then, made stark by the contrast of the modern developed Soho which sits on the gallery's doorstep, could have been heightened. Naturally, curating in a small space brings its own set of limitations, and the show would have perhaps benefitted from sitting across two floors. However, the resilient emotive and cultural connections and events mapped across the works lacked a resistance specific to Soho, which felt a shame as CrossRail looms over the area's future, threatening to erase or destroy Soho's cultural legacy.
Shot In Soho runs until 9 Feb 2020 at The Photographer's Gallery.