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16 powerful summer photography exhibitions

Captivating, skilful explorations of life through the camera lens — these stunning photography exhibitions across Bucks, Oxon, and beyond are must-visits this summer.

BUCKS, OXON, & NEARBY

Vivian Maier: Anthology, MK Gallery, 11 June – 25 Sept

This landmark exhibition explores the fascinating work of Vivian Maier. Maier was a professional nanny in New York and Chicago for over 40 years, taking hundreds of thousands of photographs. She never published her work, but it was discovered when her belongings were auctioned off in 2007, and instantly praised as phenomenally-crafted, subtly witty, deeply human. Spanning carefree children, glamorous housewives, homeless sleepers, the exhibition is a fascinating exploration of the highs and lows of everyday American life, and an amazing glimpse into the perspective of this reclusive, talented woman. Alongside the exhibition, the MK Gallery is also showing screenings of the 2013 documentary Finding Vivian Maier on 11, 24, and 28 June.

International Garden Photographer of the Year, Blenheim Palace, 3 June – 21 Aug

The International Garden Photographer of the Year returns to Blenheim Palace for the fourth year in a row, featuring a selection of winning photographs from across the main categories. With many of the images displayed on large format outdoors in the Blenheim Palace gardens, it’s a lovely celebration of the natural world within a beautiful setting. Set your inevitable garden envy to one side and appreciate the pretty pictures.

Streetscapes, Exchange House, Milton Keynes, 20-24 July

Temporarily displayed in an office building in central MK, this exhibition celebrates the captivatingly candid nature of street photography. Snapshots of public spaces, these pictures show people going about their business without a consciousness of being observed. Spanning different cities across the globe, some photos focus on the delightfully mundane, while others show city streets as a political battlefield. The exhibition is also continued at Victoria House, a short eight minute walk away.

The Duchess of Cambridge, Reading Museum, Berks, until 4 June

In celebration of the Duchess of Cambridge’s 40th birthday, Reading Museum is displaying a new portrait of Kate, taken by photographer Paolo Roversi in November 2021, in its Welcome Gallery. The museum was chosen due to the Middleton family’s connections to the area, having been parishioners of St James the Less Church in nearby Pangbourne for several generations. Fun fact: the Duchess was actually born in the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading.

RPS International Photography Exhibition, Gloucester Museum, Glos, until 5 June

Ending its 2022 tour, this exhibition displays the work of 43 different international photographers and features themes like identity, spirituality, landscape, and the environment. There’s some really fab pieces on display, marking rising star photographers, so it’s worth trying to catch it while you can.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Natural History Museum at Tring, Herts, until 19 June

A chance to see some truly phenomenal natural photography, this is the most prestigious photography event of its kind, receiving a record-breaking number of entries this year. Winning entries range from adorable to gruesome to heart-breaking, charting as they do the realities of life in the wild and human impact on nature.

Magnum Photos: Where Ideas are Born, Compton Verney, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warks, 2 June – 16 Oct

Cluttered studios and neat workspaces, grabbed moments and long deliberations — this through-the-keyhole exhibition shows artists in their creative environments. There’s some big names, from Japanese artist and writer Yayoi Kusama (pictured) to Pablo Picasso and Frida Kahlo, captured in the process of artistic spark. Very cool.

Monochrome, Bray House, Maidenhead, Berks, 15-19 June

Arguing that black and white photography allows us to strip an image to its fundamental basics, this collection explores the artistic impact of monochrome photography. It was, of course, the default kind of photography up until the 1970s, but has now become an art form in itself — and a very aesthetically pleasing one, at that. This exhibition will also be on display at Abbey Gardens in Reading from 21-25 June.

Architecture, Green Park, Reading, Berks, 3-7 Aug

Focusing in on both pleasing details and grand visions, this display features a wide spectrum of architectural structures. Precise feats of symmetrical planning, strikingly simple designs, abstract elements… the wide-ranging collection stands as a love-letter to human design, throughout the centuries. It’s being shown in a business park on the outskirts of Reading, which also has a café and variety of eateries for when all that culture vulturing works up an appetite.

FURTHER AFIELD

Lee Miller: Nurses, the Fitzrovia Chapel, London, until 5 June

Drawing from Fitzrovia Chapel’s history as part of the former Middlesex Hospital, this collection displays a selection of World War II nurse photography from the renowned photographer Lee Miller. From a US base in Oxford to the front line in Germany, the selection explores the tragic, romantic, and everyday experience of wartime nurses.

For the Record: Photography & the Art of the Album Cover, The Photographers’ Gallery, London, until 12 June

Now this is cool. Bringing together over 200 album covers, For the Record explores the role of album art in shaping identity, making statements, and celebrating expression. Ranging from instantly iconic records to overlooked gems, it’s a thumping good celebration of music, art, and the meeting of the two.

Nicholas Hughes: The Sound of Space Breathing, The Photographers’ Gallery, London, 27 May – 24 July

This display celebrates the work of British photographer Nicholas Hughes, specifically his use of silver gelatin prints in depicting a journey along the Cornish coast. Evocative, almost abstract, the photographs are invitingly cryptic and sort of wild — prompting a good, proper stare.

Astronomy Photographer of the Year, National Maritime Museum, London, until 7 August

This annual exhibition showcases the world’s greatest space photography. Featuring over 100 photographs, the display is a staggering, rather humbling look at the depth and breadth of our universe. Though entirely real, it has an inevitable, really cool sci-fi feel to it; just look at this other-worldly photo of a Shanghai sunrise.

Maurice Broomfield: Industrial Sublime, V&A Museum, London, until 6 Nov

Capturing the transition from lingering industrial revolution to new technologies, this exhibition displays a dramatic collection of factory photographs by Maurice Broomfield. Think fiery furnaces, geometric assembly lines, rolled-up retro sleeves: all dynamic, engaging visions of the past.

Known and Strange, V&A Museum, London, until 6 Nov

A little bit unsettling but quite captivating, this exhibition displays a series of photographs that transform the familiar into the unfamiliar. Expect deconstructed landscapes, monochrome cityscapes, and Surrealist mixed-media portraits. Very vibe-y.

International Photography Exhibition, RPS Gallery, Bristol, until 21 August

The world’s longest running photography exhibition, this is the IPE’s 163rd edition. Not bad! The 105 works on display here demonstrate a real breadth of contemporary storytelling today, spanning all sorts of different themes. One thing they all have in common? Visionary talent, naturally. We absolutely love this reworking of the Classical tale of Actaeon by British photographer Yushi Li.

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