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What Is the Photographers' Gallery?

By J.E. Holloway
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Photographers' Gallery is a venue in the Soho area of London devoted to presenting photography as art. It was the first independent gallery in London devoted solely to photography, and remains the largest, continuing to play a leading role in the field. Many famous photographers have exhibited their work at the Photographers' Gallery, including Robert Capa, Andreas Gursky and Martin Parr.

Sue Davies founded the Photographers' Gallery in 1971. The gallery promoted not only art photographers but photographers in other fields such as photojournalism. Newspaper editor Tom Hopkinson was the first chair of the gallery's Board of Trustees, strengthening its ties with the journalistic community.

The Photographers' Gallery began life in a converted tea room in Newport Street before expanding into a nearby building in 1980. Both buildings were extensively refurbished in 1993. In 2005, the gallery moved to new facilities in Ramillies Street. Shortly after the move to Ramillies Street, however, the gallery once again embarked on a program of refurbishment. The Ramillies Street building closed in late 2010, with the intention of opening again in 2011.

The 2011 reopening was to reveal a state-of-the-art new building with more gallery space, an education area and other amenities. In spite of this prediction, the gallery's refurbishment plan ran behind schedule. The reopening was delayed until early 2012. During the extended refurbishment, the building remained closed to the public. Other gallery activities continued unimpeded; the Photographers' Gallery hosted online exhibits on its website, as well as conducting talks and outreach activities in other locations.

The Photographers' Gallery is a registered charity which receives funding from a number of different sources. One important contributor is the Arts Council England, a government body that supplies funding for arts programs and museums. Although Arts Council England is a large donor, the majority of the gallery's income comes from other sources.

The gallery receives sponsorship from corporations, which often sponsor a specific exhibition or program. For instance, Deutsche Boörse sponsors an annual photography prize. Other sources of income come from patrons who sponsor the gallery with individual contributions; individual patrons who donate large amounts can commission photographs from photographers associated with the gallery. Additionally, the Photographers' Gallery operates a retail business which sells books relating to photography and prints of photographs from its collections. This arm of the gallery remained open during the closure of the main building to raise further funds for the project.

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