The best UK photography galleries chosen by Sean O’Hagan

Impressions Gallery, Bradford
Established in 1972, Impressions has stayed true to its community roots, while also becoming a pioneering space showcasing contemporary photography for free. Since moving from York in 2007, it has hosted shows by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Peter Mitchell and Zed Nelson and is currently exhibiting Chloe Dewe Mathews’s project In Search of Frankenstein.

Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool
Open Eye moved to a prime waterfront location seven years ago and has seen visitor numbers increase by 500%. It is now a key part of the Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art and, in the summer, hosted New Brighton Revisited, featuring the work of Martin Parr, Ken Grant and Tom Wood, in a site on the Wirral close to where the original images were made in the 1980s and 1990s. The archive contains 1,600 prints from the 1930s to the present day.

Ffotogallery, Penarth
Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, Ffotogallery, at Turner House just outside Cardiff, is a leading independent. It has hosted shows by the likes of Josef Koudelka and Wendy McMurdo. The gallery also organises the biannual Diffusion: Cardiff International Festival of Photography, with a fourth instalment taking place next April. It has plans to develop a new and expanded site in central Cardiff.

Belfast Exposed, Belfast
Founded by a group of local photographers in 1983 to challenge and subvert media representations of the Troubles-torn city, Belfast Exposed has established itself as the key independent space for contemporary photography in Northern Ireland. Its gallery in the heart of the cathedral quarter is currently hosting Dana Lixenberg’s epic social documentary project, Imperial Courts.

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Untitled #89, Bristol Channel, Somerset, from Francesca Maffeo Gallery, Leigh-on-Sea.

Untitled #89, Bristol Channel, Somerset, from Francesca Maffeo Gallery, Leigh-on-Sea. Photograph: © Tim Richmond, courtesy Francesca Maffeo Gallery

TJ Boulting, London W1
Opened in 2001 by the late Gigi Giannuzzi, a maverick of the London photography scene, TJ Boulting hosts contemporary art and photography as well as being home to independent photobook imprint Trolley Books. It concentrates on emerging artists and has recently shown work by Juno Calypso and Maisie Cousins, two of the hottest names on the British scene.

Michael Hoppen, London SW3
Since 1992, Michael Hoppen’s space has been a crucial destination for anyone interested in photography. Over three floors, it shows work ranging from photography’s invention to the present day. The gallery has also amassed one of the most extensive collections of postwar Japanese photography outside Asia. Michael Hoppen’s commitment to emerging artists is reflected in recent shows byEamonn Doyle, Chloe Sells and Lucas Foglia.

Huxley-Parlour, London W1
Formerly the Beetles-Huxley, this Mayfair gallery is pitched at the serious collector of photography, hosting 10 shows a year by major artists such as Joel Sternfeld, Bruce Davidson, Edward Weston, Joel Meyerowitz, Berenice Abbott, Bill Brandt and Vivian Maier. The current exhibition is of Polaroids by William Wegman.

Martin Parr Foundation, Bristol
Opened last year by Britain’s best-known photographer, MPF is a gallery, archive, library and studio and as well as a hub for talks, screenings and events; its aim is to support “work focused on the British Isles”. Currently showing Paul Trevor’s series, In Your Face, close-up street portraits taken in London during the Thatcher years.

From In Search of Frankenstein by Chloe Dewe Mathews, at Impressions Gallery, Bradford.

From In Search of Frankenstein by Chloe Dewe Mathews, at Impressions Gallery, Bradford. Photograph: Chloe Dewe Mathews

Francesca Maffeo, Leigh-on-Sea
Artist and academic Francesca Genovese opened the thriving Francesca Maffeo Gallery, named after her grandmother, in the Thames Estuary town in 2015. She has since exhibited new work by Spencer Murphy, Trish Morrissey, Laura Pannack and Jordi Ruiz Cirera.

Side Gallery, Newcastle
In 1977, the Amber film and photography collective, which was formed to document working-class experience in the north-east, opened Side Gallery in Newcastle with a remit to show “the best in humanist photography.” Since then, it has exhibited a huge range of work by local and international photographers, including Chris Killip, Don McCullin, Graham Smith and Vanessa Winship.

Stills Centre for Photography, Edinburgh
Established in 1977, Stills is a gallery and photographic production centre that offers access to B&W and colour darkrooms, digital workstations, scanners, printers and dedicated video editing facilities. It hosts four shows a year and has recently featured work by Jo Spence and the Archive of Modern Conflict.



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