So here I am in Paris. I’m staying in a little apartment in Montmartre which has a view of the Sacre-Coeur and is close to a marvelous little Jazz club, so I’m very happy. But why am I here? Ah, yes, the Paris Photo. If you don’t know of it, it’s a “must see” on nearly every photographers calendar, it’s the place to hang out with other professionals and gallery owners. It’s incredibly useful to collectors and artists to see what are the selling trends and what rates are.
The aisles are full of creative people, many eccentrics and individuality oozes down the aisles. I more or less fit in, bundled as I am in Jigsaw jacket and multiple scarves…
So where to start this review? The aisles are not alphabetical, and the layout lends itself to mooching and there’s plenty of space within each gallery booth to wander in and spend time in front of the images (unlike the Affordable Art Fair, which seems to shrink the galleries into shoeboxes), mind you the prints here at ParisExpo range from £2,000 to £1million… so I suppose if you’re a gallery exhibiting here, you can afford to pay for the extra square footage!
What I’ve come away with, is that there is such an optimism and creative activity in the photography world. And I mean this not just in terms of subject matter but also in camera format (there are many young and up and coming photographers using large format and film cameras) and printing materials. Silver Gelatin prints are many, also C-type and some real innovation on glass and a resurrection of early techniques of capturing images directly onto plates and selling these as one offs (see Matthias Olmeta at Galerie du Jour Agnes B, Paris).
I’ll run down some highlights of the show, which if you manage to go, or view any of it online, you might want to google and track them down.
Asymetria Gallery, based in Poland was displaying work by Tomek Sikora who had a series of 6 imaginary pieces on Alice in Wonderland (1978-1979); these were creative staged works in which actors took the part of the individual characters and then hand finished and painted in rainbow colours, becoming a dream-like riot of a haze of fantasy. In contrast Zofia Rydet’s black and whites of four children created a more quiet tone or yearning and innocence. But both to me, conjured memories and an association.
Bailey Seippel’s gallery is one I shall be “watching”. His is the first gallery in South Africa to specialise solely in Afrian photography. Bailey had an amazing print of Miriam Makeba, the singer whom I’m a big fan of. She is sitting on a bench seat with two other women engaged in conversation; it celebrates her ordinariness and engagement with people. She was so magnetic a personality and the simple conversation captured by Ranjith Kally is worth the Euro2,400 ticket as it also documents history. Bob Gosani’s work is there too, sampled brilliantly by a black couple at a bus stop, the man is on the kerb stone and the woman stands off it on the road, he is facing her and it is a moment of intimacy. As your eyes look up you see they are standing at a “Native Bustop”. Segregation cuts colour but not love. It’s also touching as you can see Bob’s shadow at the bottom of the photo as he is taking it.
There were some classic images which I could have just rolled up and took home, such as Jan C Schlegel’s “Biwa with Crocodile”, a silver gelain print, hand toned (Bernheimer Fine Art Photography, based Munich).
One image which completely blew me away was Edward Burtynsky’s black and white image of a shipyard (Bryce Wolkowitz, New York). Big black monoliths of ships loom like metallic cliff faces, while sea-water seeps into the foreground of the photo; silhouetted peak-capped men stand around enshrouded in steam in the distance, overshadowed by the massive metal floating machines.
Beauty vs Personality is celebrated in Steve Schapiro’s portraits of Beckett and Streisand, whose hair cascades down her face like a riverflow. William Klein’s iconic image of a Woman in Veil was good to see “close up”, the mesh sweeps up across her face like scaffolding through which she blows smoke like some industrial siren. (Camera Work Gallery)
For an ‘experience’ go to the Corkin Gallery’s installation, where you can sit among trees on a park bench made out of branches. Sit there and let the black and white ashen forest of slender tree-shafts march around you, shedding their rough reptilian skin to expose their smooth underflesh.
Forma (Milan) celebrates the black and whites of Delgado and Giorgia Fiorio with huge prints. The latter are soft pitch black and seem to have a patina of brushed charcoal.
For those wanting to see a bit of history, have a look at Daniel Blau’s (Munich and London) collection of Moon and space prints, I hovered a bit too long by Saturn’s Rings and Jupiter’s Red Spot, but the moon close ups were just stunning. It also highlights the importance of photography as a medium for capturing history for generations. An image can speak a thousand words and convey in a second what words take longer to do. You can see some vintage Nan Goldings at Gitterman (New York), but she still doesn’t do it for me.
Hamiltons (London) entices you into its black roofed booth, to lure you towards dramatic landscapes and lightning strikes of Murray Fredericks. Hamiltons also deal with Penn, Leibovitz, Avedon and others, so this Australian photographer is one to collect (if you can afford it!).
I’m by nature attracted to people photography, but there was a series of images by Peter Wegner (m Bochum, Germany) of what looked like ice blue towerblocks surrounded by creamy grey skies, but in fact were upside down images: the blue building was in fact the sky and the cream atmosphere were the buildings. Stunning when seen en masse, almost like a city scape on its own.
Randomly there was an ink on paper Jackson Pollock at Pace/Macgill Galery (New York) but it wasn’t for sale (I asked…., like I have the money!)
The Tower of Babel builds itself on the side of the RX gallery (Paris) booth in a huge CType print, DU Zhenjun has created a cake of babbling chaos that is Old Europe 2010, casting questions on democracy, society and communication.
One of the greatest number of prints already sold was for the lucky Esther Woerdehoff gallery (Paris) and the arrestingly beautiful image by Christian Tagliavini (Portrait of a Young Woman, 2010). Sold out in fact. Just goes to show that the traditional still is the best generalist seller in the market.
There were many others, but if I have to just mention a couple more, then swing by Leica Gallery Prague, which has these series of shots taken by Vaclav Jirasek, taken in an old castle where the “mentally ill” just go to be. What’s fascinating, and was obviously the thing which “got” Vaclav is that these people collected all sorts of things, piles and piles and piles of it: books, cases, masks, paper, all in huge mountains. You have to track his work down to see it. It’s quite something. The second is by an Iranian photographer Shadi Ghadrian, which I saw soooo tempted to buy at Euros 3,500… (ouch!). It’s of a woman sitting in the arch of a window threading a spiders web. It’s part of her Miss Butterfly series, based on an Iranian myth which tells the story of a butterfly getting caught in a spider’s web. The spider releases her into a cave where she is supposed to find insects for him to eat instead of her. But she can’t bring herself to sacrifice them, so she says there’s nothing. He lets her go in the end, so these staged theatrical photographs convey all sorts of things to whoever sees them. Whether you have eyes of a feminist or a brickie you’ll see constriction, protection, family, control as well as freedom. Amazing images, such stark black and white almost silhouetted imagery. The palette is similar to mine, which is why I’m drawn to these, but I can see Shadi being one to watch.
There were some real cute gallery owners too, but I haven’t named names….! I’ll let you find your own!