You and your friends have fun sharing selfies and Instagramming every meal, but when you’re ready to experience photography in its highest, most artistic form, head to Soho. At the Photographers’ Gallery, viewing the work of the world’s most accomplished photographers involves no distracted scrolling or swiping. The art at this cultural hot spot demands your undivided attention, so grab a pal or two and spend an inspiring afternoon walking through the gallery and getting more meaning out of photographs than you ever thought possible.
Step out from the frenzy of Oxford Street and into the narrow alley where the Photographers’ Gallery is tucked away. A sleek black veneer covers the brick building, a beacon of artist-chic for you and your friends. Your casual chatter subsides as you walk in, where the lobby’s cool, uncluttered lines offer a respite from the noise and bustle outside.
At three stories, this is London‘s largest public gallery devoted to photography, so pick a display and let your eye fall on whatever image grabs it. With work from both long established and up-and-coming photographers, you can follow the evolution of photography as an art form through the ages. Photos are in color, black-and-white, or surreally color-filtered. From photojournalistic action shots and celebrity portraits to classic photos from the archive of the London Fire Brigade, you’ll see the world through the eyes–and lenses–of the greats.
Time your visit right and you’ll also see some amazing rotating exhibits. Beginning August 1, for example, is Lorenzo Vitturi’s Dalston Anatomy, a series of colorful still-lifes of found objects that captures the spirit of Dalston’s Ridley Road Market. Those with a taste for history won’t want to miss Primrose: Early Colour Photography in Russia, with photos from the 1860s to the 1970s. One particularly notable shot of a smiling high school girl clutching a brown leather bag, her hair blowing in the breeze under a bright blue sky, reminds you that hope and optimism are universal through time and place.
When you head back outside to the buzz of Soho, you see it with different eyes. You notice the light bouncing off the buildings, the curved lines in the streetlamps, and the expressions of the people who pass by. You think about reaching for your phone to snap a picture, but instead, this time, you’re happy just to look.
Photo by Tom Page