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This year a wealth of major exhibitions, fairs and new spaces dedicated to photography are poised to open in the UK and North America. The increased prominence of photography in the art market means more opportunities for those aspiring to careers with a art photography focus. At Sotheby’s Institute in London all MA students have the opportunity to take elective modules in photography to broaden and enhance their understanding of the subject. We spoke to Sotheby’s Institute - London Master’s degree faculty about what’s pushing photography to the top of the agenda in 2016... 

Photo London is back for a second edition

Last year’s inaugural edition of Photo London, in London’s opulent Somerset House, was a great success, with 20,000 people - art business professionals, collectors and members of the public - visiting the commercial fair across four days in May. Seventy galleries from 20 countries showed photographs, from vintage prints to contemporary work. Strong sales were reported, including six prints by the American photographer William Eggleston sold by Rose Gallery for a total of £161,000. Photo London returns to Somerset House in May 2016. More galleries will feature this year, alongside a lively public program, with performances, talks and lectures, and specially commissioned exhibitions, showcasing emerging talent.

V&A expands its photography collection

London’s Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) has recently announced that it will acquire The Royal Photographic Society (RPS) collection of art photography, currently in the National Media Museum in Bradford. This world-renowned collection includes key works by figures such as Alfred Stieglitz, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Paul Strand and Julia Margaret Cameron, and contains some of the earliest photographs ever made. Adding to an already extensive and historically significant collection of photographs at the museum, the transfer of 400,000 objects to the V&A will create the world’s foremost collection of photography, which will be publically accessible through an International Photography Resource Centre.

A new home for the ICP

Changes are also afoot for photography in New York. The International Center for Photography (ICP) closed temporarily in 2014 to allow for relocation to new premises. Moving from its Midtown location, the ICP museum and exhibition space will be housed at 250 Bowery from summer 2016, opposite the New Museum.

Cornell Capa founded the ICP in 1974, on a belief in photography as the most vital means of global communication. He aimed to bring photojournalism and socially concerned imagery to the institutional space of the museum. While staying true to this heritage, the museum will also address contemporary issues, notably how the web, smartphones and social media have revolutionized the way images are disseminated, consumed, and how they function politically in today’s image-saturated, digital era.

SFMOMA opens a photography space

On the West Coast of America, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) will open a new space for photography in 2016, as part of an expansion designed by the architecture firm Snøhetta. The John and Lisa Pritzker Center for Photography is set to become the largest exhibition space for photography in the United States. The 15,500-square-foot center, which will show the growing permanent collection and special temporary exhibitions, triples the current space allocated to photography in the museum.

Totalling around 17,000 works, the collection spans Japanese photography; Surrealist and avant-garde European work; 1970s experimental photography; and documentary photography. Researchers will be able to view photographs in the center’s improved study room, giving them a more direct engagement with the museum’s photography collection.

FraenkelLAB launches

Also in San Francisco, high-end photography gallery Fraenkel, which opened in 1979, has launched a new venue for experimental photography, film, video, painting, drawing, sculpture, and performance: FraenkelLAB. The space will present work that is important to, but stands outside, the mainly photographic program of the parent gallery, underlining the way photography is often only one form in which artists choose to express themselves. The space is scheduled to open in April 2016 with ‘Home Improvements’, a show featuring 13 contemporary artists curated by the filmmaker John Waters.

Canada gets a national photography institute

The National Gallery of Canada is establishing the Canadian Photography Institute (CPI), a multidisciplinary research center dedicated to photography. Collector and philanthropist David Thomson has donated a series of photographs, books and objects, currently in the region of 12,000 works. A $10 million donation by Scotiabank, the largest corporate financial donation ever made to the gallery, will fund an exhibition space devoted to photography together with an ambitious photography research initiative, forging international partnerships for the study of the growing collection.

Must-see exhibitions in London, LA and Paris

This year also sees important photography exhibitions opening at prestigious venues around the globe: a retrospective of the American modernist photographer and filmmaker Paul Strand at the V&A in London; two exhibitions dedicated to the controversial work of Robert Mapplethorpe at the Getty Museum and LACMA in Los Angeles; and an exhibition of the Czech photographer Josef Sudek at the Jeu de Paume in Paris, to name but a few. There really has been no better time to get out there and see photography first hand.

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