History, nudity and innovation at London's largest photography event

Story highlights

  • Founded in 2015, Photo London brings together 80 of the world's leading galleries
  • Director and co-founded Michael Benson chooses the most important images from this year's program

(CNN)"I think photography really is the art form for the 21st century."

Michael Benson is the director and co-founder of Photo London, the capital's major international photography fair which was launched for the first time last year.
The 2016 edition of the fair -- which opened on May 19 -- has expanded, with 80 of the world's leading galleries and over 480 artists brought together under one roof at Somerset House. With almost every possible space taken over -- from the cavernous Embankment galleries to new, purpose-built spaces in the courtyard -- there's a lot to take in.
    It's a comprehensive introduction to the world of photography, from leading talents like Nadav Kander, Turner Prize-nominated Craigie Horsfield, and Don McCullin (who will receive this year's Master of Photography award) to young artists like Anja Niemi and Walter & Zoniel.
    This year's fair also highlights trends in the photography world at large: a return to older forms of photography, especially by the younger generation, and, according to Benson "the seriousness with which people are taking fashion photography."

    Why photography matters now

    The fair is arguably proof of how much the popularity of photography has risen, not just in public perception but more importantly within the art market.
    "It's interesting because London was the place where the word 'photography' was coined, so we have a very rich and noble tradition in the field," Benson says. "I think we've slightly taken our eye off the ball, so somewhere like New York is probably the great world capital of photography. Our ambition with Photo London is to raise photography up to that level. And that's going to take a few years."
    Benson feels social media has influenced the public's perception of and interaction with photography.
    "Technology has given everyone the license to try to make really great photographs. I think most of us, myself included, fail, but it doesn't stop us trying."
    Photo London is on at Somerset House in London from 19 to 22 May, 2016