Since 2017, Paris Photo has paid special attention to women photographers with the program Elles x Paris Photo launched in 2017 at the initiative of the Ministry of Culture. Every year, a female curator is responsible for selecting works by women artists among the gallery offerings at the art fair. The creation of an original itinerary has been entrusted in 2021 to Nathalie Herschdorfer, an art historian specializing in photography and director of the Musée des Beaux Arts in Le Locle, Switzerland. She has picked thirty artists among those represented at the event, who are now labeled with an Elles x Paris Photo sticker.
Nathalie Herschdorfer proposes a journey through the history of photography, from Englishwoman Anna Atkins to the Spanish artist Almudena Romero, winner of the latest BMW residency. Although the former practiced in the mid-nineteenth century while the latter is contemporary, they share a keen gaze and a passion for nature. Atkins was botanist and the author of the first book illustrated with cyanotypes of plants; Romero’s body of work relies on natural materials (see Works Come Alive at the Rencontres d’Arles).
Florence Bourgeois, the director of Paris Photo, doesn’t see the emphasis on women as a passing fad: “In 2018, they represented 20% of the artists exhibited at the fair, this year they are 32%. This is a real step forward and a proof that we have taken the subject in hand.” She points out the creation of the website ellesxparisphoto.com, which is regularly enriched with new interviews of artists.
Another event dedicated to women proposed at the fair was initiated by the Centre National des Arts Plastiques (CNAP), this year’s Paris Photo partner. This event brings together works purchased by the French institution in the run-up to the fair, including pieces by Laurence Aëgerter, Juliette Agnel, Heather Agyepong, Aassmaa Akhannouch, Arièle Bonzon, Siân Davey, Elsa & Johanna, Maryam Firuzi, Flore, Mikiko Hara, Lebohang Kganye, Mame-Diarra Niang and Mouna Saboni. These works are all come with the label, “Acquired by the Centre national des arts plastiques.”
The CNAP is also featuring an exhibition entitled Corpus, built around works by women artists acquired by the CNAP over the past four years. t spotlights seven artists working on the themes of body and identity: Florence Chevallier, Hannah Darabi, Farida Hamak, Mouna Karray, Fatima Mazmouz, Edith Roux, and Anaëlle Vanel.
Lastly, the Muus Collection, headquartered in New Jersey, showcases a series of works by Deborah Turbeville entitled Passport. These 120 collages are accompanied by short texts, offering an intimate look at the work of this American photographer best known for her fashion images.
By Sophie Bernard
Sophie Bernard is a journalist specializing in photography, a contributor to La Gazette de Drouot and Le Quotidien de l’Art, a curator, and a teacher at EFET in Paris.