“This is amazing!,” exclaimed Fiona seated on a step—an improvised, and much needed, resting point after hours spent walking up and down the aisles. “We’ve been here since early morning and are not leaving until the evening,” said this London resident who came with her daughter Scarlett, a teenager who dreams of becoming a photographer. “I just love these photos,” the girl showed us snapshots she took with her phone: snow-covered houses in a pristine setting. “And this one, too!,” added Fiona, pointing to a photograph from a must-see series by Sebastião Salgado dedicated to the miners of Serra Pelada in Brazil.
Introducing the public to photography classics is one of the functions of Paris Photo. We are regaled with flagship exhibitions, which justify the reputation of the fair and boost the notion that Paris Photo is synonymous with original images of exceptional quality. This is true of this year’s edition which spotlights two of photography’s trailblazers side by side: Man Ray and August Sander. The visitors press around the frames to see the images up close. From Man Ray’s striking Surrealist scenes to August Sander’s searing portraits, one can see at a glance some extraordinary facets of the history of photography and grasp the enduring legacy of these innovations.
Some pushing and shoving
One would need a thousand eyes to be able to see everything Paris Photo has to offer. One also needs a trained eye to follow the sale trends among the vendors. At the Galerie Lumière des Roses, which specializes in vintage anonymous photography, images were selling like cupcakes. “This has been a very good fair,” smiled Philippe Jacquier who, by Thursday night, had sold nearly two-thirds of his stock. We heard the same story from François Sage who took the risk of showing the work of the Japanese artist Mari Katayama, whom Blind was able to meet. “Museums have expressed interest in her work,” said the gallery owner as he was putting away his phone covered with crab stickers, applied by the artist herself in reference to her physical handicap, namely her cleft hand resembling a crab’s claw.
This is one of the fair’s big attractions: its ability to bring artists from around the world and put them in touch with the public. There was a bit of shoving and pushing in the publishing section: the American photographer Joel Meyerowitz was signing his books. A bit further down, at the Actes Sud booth, the photographer Susan Meiselas was autographing hers. It’s not uncommon to cross paths with world-renowned photographers in one of the aisles. A quick chat with the photographer Josef Koudelka confirmed he found this edition particularly “interesting.” Valérie Belin shared similar impressions at the Nathalie Obadia Gallery which is showing her work.
The fair is interesting because it allows us to pick out new talents from the ocean of visual flow that, on the whole, may be difficult to navigate. Whether we are dealing with experimental photography, like for example the work of Meghann Riepenhoff who uses natural elements to create her imprints, specifically by plunging sheets of photographic paper directly into the sea, or classical photography, such as the delicate compositions by the artist FLORE, we are bound to discover unique approaches. These various ways of looking are assembled in a most appropriate of settings. Soft November sunlight filtered through the glass roof set a contemplative mood, sweeping gently across the artworks—a reminder of its primordial role in photography.
By Jean-Baptiste Gauvin