Somerset House will host Beneath the Surface, a new exhibition commissioned by Photo London that will open concurrently with the fair and continue until 24 August 2015. In keeping with the breadth of photographic works represented at Photo London, Beneath the Surface will reflect the international scope and historical depth of the V&A’s preeminent collection of photographs.

‘‘With our inaugural edition we wanted to make a really strong statement about photography and, in particular, collecting photography in London. As the V&A has one of the world’s great collections of photographs, what better way to do that than to commission the museum to create an exhibition of rarely seen works from its collection - some of which date back to the very dawn of the medium. Through the many wonderful works that it will present, this exhibition will bring a significant international audience to Photo London.’’ - Michael Benson, Co-director, Photo London

‘‘Somerset House frequently collaborates with artists, curators and other cultural centres so it’s fantastic to create something in tandem with Photo London and the V&A, another major London institution, for the first time. Photography is a strand of our cultural programme which we’ve really developed over the past few years and we’ve invited some of the world’s greatest photographers and subjects to exhibit, so we are delighted to now feature one of the most significant collections here. Martin Barnes has thought about our special location in selecting the works for Somerset House and curated a fascinating showcase of life in London by the water, in both its most historical and conceptual sense. It’s particularly compelling to have some of the earliest works from the collection on the site where Sir John Herschel supposedly defined the term photography in 1839. We felt it was too special to have only open for a few days so will keep the show on through the summer.’’ - Jonathan Reekie, director, Somerset House Trust

This exhibition of some 200 works reflects the Embankment Galleries’ riverfront location in one of London’s most ancient quarters, focussing on images of water, the topography of the city and the people within it. Depictions of water - implying depths beneath the surface - provide a metaphor for the richness of the V&A’s collection, and the exhibition will also include photographs of the museum itself. Selected from a collection that dates back to 1852, Beneath the Surface comprises unseen or rarely-displayed photographs chosen by Martin Barnes, the museum’s Senior Curator of Photographs.

Beneath the Surface will include works by the earliest practitioners in the field, including nineteenth-century masters William Strudwick, Victor Prout and Charles Thurston Thompson; great observers of twentieth-century life such as Thurston Hopkins, John Gay and Brassaï; contemporary and fine art photography by Susan Derges, Nigel Shafran, Sinje Dillenkofer, Stephen Gill and Naoya Hatakeyama, and photographic works by practitioners better known in other media, such as graphic designer Robert Brownjohn and installation artists Ackroyd & Harvey.