Do we need Photography Galleries?

When so many people see photography in shows like the Tate's Mikhailov display do we still need photo galleries? image: Simon Denison

The new issue of Source is all about photo galleries. Rebecca Hopkinson has been looking at the programmes of contemporary art spaces to ask if we still need specialist photography galleries. If contemporary art spaces (like the Whitechapel and Irish Museum of Modern Art) are showing photography why do we need galleries like the the Photographers' Gallery (due to reopen in early 2012) and the Gallery of Photography?

First of all (with the help of David Mann) we counted up how many photo shows contemporary art spaces had put on. Answer: in the last two years they staged 1,611 shows in Ireland and the UK, 151 of them were photo shows. In the same period photo galleries put on 128 photo shows. So, lose the photo galleries and you nearly halve the number of photography exhibitions.

Second question, what photography do the contemporary art spaces show? This is more complicated. Rebecca spoke to a number of gallery directors. The common theme was, as Daniel Herrmann at the Whitechapel Gallery puts it, ‘The choice is always the artist, not the medium’. Curiously however, the people who run contemporary art spaces seem to agree that photo galleries have a particular function, specifically, to give opportunities to new artists. Read the entire story in the news section of the latest issue. Are they just being diplomatic? It looks as if there is still a significantly different ethos at work.

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