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The Photographer’s Gallery, London

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My mum and I regularly organise a girls day out, usually including some sightseeing, shopping, good food and a glass of wine or two.

This day out had a photography theme, first stop being The Photographer’s Gallery. Just a short walk from Charing Cross station, just off Oxford Street. Arrive before midday and entry is free.

The gallery is arranged over different floors with separate exhibitions in each, the first of which being ‘Under Cover: A Secret History Of Cross – Dressers’. This was a fascinating insight into how history has shaped cross-dressing, and how it has been a means of escapism from the trials of everyday life for both men and women across the world.

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Dating from 1880 onwards, many of the photos are in black and white and are taken by amateurs, giving a real-world insight into individuals and groups of people breaking out of society’s boundaries around gender. The collection explores people from different classes, nationalities and ages, exploring cross-dressing culture.

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The exhibition also explored the origins of the feminist movement, in part started by women dressing as men as a way to escape the traditional female roles society had placed on them. The term feminism first surfaced in 1872. French writer Alexandre Dumas coined the term to describe the women’s rights movement that was surfacing at the time. I began to think about how almost 150 years later a similar emergence is happening, with the current protests surrounding the treatment of women.

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Upstairs was the first of two exhibitions by artists shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2018. Covering the gallery walls were a collection of unframed prints, exploring nature and the physical world. The artist has collected the images from close to 1000 different sources, and the end result is visually striking.

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The final exhibition, and second on the shortlist for the Deutsche Börse Prize, is a photographic documentary depicting the devastation caused by global biotechnology corporation Monsanto as one of the major producers of the highly toxic herbicide Agent Orange, which was used by U.S. military forces during the Vietnam War.

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The exhibition uses photographs alongside documentation, court files, personal letters and company memorabilia to highlight the human, ecological and economic cost. This exhibition was particularly fascinating because of the combination of photography with other media. The portraits of farmers affected were particularly haunting, drawing you in to the story.

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I can highly recommend a visit to The Photographer’s Gallery for anyone interested in photography, it’s a great place to get some inspiration and the exhibitions are organised in a way that tells a story through the images.

A brilliant day out, keep an eye out for part two for a fantastic vegetarian lunch…

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