Photography is a staple of everyday life. We’re bombarded by images 24/7 and, since the dawn of the digital age, it’s easier than ever to take pictures. But photography in the hands of an artist or a photojournalist is another matter — it’s the kind of imagery that stops us dead in our tracks and causes us to reflect on life. In search of such pictures, we combed the globe to find the best photography galleries in the world — from Camera Work in Berlin and Amsterdam’s TORCH Gallery to San Francisco’s Fraenkel Gallery and Three Shadows Photography Art Centre in Beijing. And we not only chose the best galleries, we found a seminal photograph to represent each space. Click through our picks for the 10 best galleries in the world and let us know if we left out any of your favorite photography spots.
Hamiltons in London was founded in 1977, but has been under the proprietorship of Tim Jefferies — often referred to as the handsomest art dealer in the world, and rightly said as he dated supermodels Elle MacPherson and Claudia Schiffer before settling down — since 1984. The stylish Mayfair gallery represents modernists masters like Horst, David Bailey, and Helmut Newton, as well as young upstarts, such as Miles Aldridge, Richard Caldicott, and Alison Jackson, whose whimsical photo of a Princess Di doppelganger is featured here.
Established in 1979, San Francisco’s Fraenkel Gallery is both blue-chip and diverse — representing the historical photographers Eugene Atget, E.J. Bellocq, and Carlton E. Watkins alongside artists that sometimes use the medium, including Mel Bochner, Sol LeWitt, and Christian Marclay. Pictured here is a recent photo by Katy Grannan, one of the gallery’s most talented young photographers, who’s currently presenting a double show at New York’s Salon 94.
Founded in 2007 by Chinese photographer RongRong and his Japanese counterpart inri, Beijing’s Three Shadows Photography Art Centre is a growing platform for photography and video. Located in a Caochangdi complex designed by Ai Weiwei, whose photographic work is featured in the stable, Three Shadows shows contemporary Chinese and Japanese photographers, as well as American and European masters. The center also has an extensive library of photography books and facilities for producing photographic and video works. This photograph is a collaboration between RongRong and inri.
Representing one of the most eclectic, international mixes of contemporary photographers in New York, Yossi Milo Gallery‘s aesthetic interests range from the figurative to the abstract. Showing some of our favorite photographers working today, including Sze Tsung Leong, Youssef Nabil, and Pieter Hugo, whose work is pictured here and featured in a new Prestel monograph, Milo has a great eye for both choosing artists and hanging shows.
Amsterdam’s TORCH Gallery is home to both photography and contemporary art; however, since the gallery’s inception in 1984, it has closely been regarded as a champion of avant-garde photographers, particularly by exhibiting the work of Anton Corbijn, Inez van Lamsweerde, Anthony Goicolea, Loretta Lux, Edward Burtynsky, and Teun Hocks, a master of staged photography who is pictured here in his witty hand-painted photographic interpretation of Gulliver’s travels.
Established in 1990, Milan’s Galleria Carla Sozzani offers art, design, and architecture, but the gallery is best know for its photography shows. Exhibiting Helmut Newton, Annie Leibovitz, Bruce Weber, Sarah Moon, Paolo Roversi, David LaChapelle, and others, the dynamic program blends fashion with fine art and publishes marvelous books by its best artists and designers. The picture here, from Robert Polidori’s Versailles series, was featured in a March 2011 exhibition at the gallery.
Starting out in Chicago in 1980, Edywnn Houk Gallery moved to New York in 1991 and expanded to Zurich in 2010. Mixing 20th century masters like Brassai, Bill Brandt, and Man Ray with contemporary practitioners, such as Sally Mann, Victor Schrager, and Lynn Davis, Edywnn Houk Gallery consistently presents adventurous yet poetic work. A survey show of Lalla Essaydi’s Les Femmes du Maroc (Women of Morocco) is currently on view at the Zurich space.
Antwerp’s Fifty One Fine Art Photography shows vintage, classic, fashion, African and contemporary photography. Opened in 2000, Fifty One Fine Art Photography is the only major art gallery in Belgium exclusively devoted to fine art photography. The gallery mixes established and emerging photographers, including Aaron Siskind, Malick Sidibe, Joan Fontcuberta, Deanna Templeton, and William Klein, whose 1984 portrait of Serge Gainsbourg is featured here. Additional photos of charismatic singer/songwriter are on view in a traveling exhibition, organized by the gallery, at the French Institute in New York.
Magnum Gallery in Paris is an offshoot of Magnum Photos, the photo agency that was founded in 1947 by Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger, and David “Chim” Seymour. Today the photo co-operative continues as one of the best pools of practitioners working in documentary and editorial photography. The gallery represents more than 80 past and present photographers, including Philippe Halsman, Inge Morath, Steve McCurry, Alec Soth, Martin Parr, and Lise Sarfati, whose work is featured here and currently on view at the gallery.
Berlin’s Camera Work was founded in 1997 as a showcase for vintage and contemporary photography. Named after Alfred Stieglitz’s legendary magazine “Camera Work,” the gallery maintains a collection of vintage prints by Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Dorothea Lange, Irving Penn, and others, as well as an archive of memorabilia related to President Kennedy and his extended family. Contemporary photographers include Nick Brandt, Steven Klein, and Martin Schoeller, whose 2003 photo of Angelina Jolie is pictured here.