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Guest blog by J. Sybylla Smith
The experience of attending Paris Photo is best described in Latin: Ars longue, vita brevis. Art is long, life is short! Held every November, this photo fair hosts 178 exhibitors from 34 countries, 30 book publishers, The Photobook of the Year Awards, Prismes, (a curated section of large scale exhibitions), Platforms (a multi-lingual speaker series), and offers 100’s of book-signings in the span of five days. This is my fifth time to Paris Photo and while logistics remain daunting so too does its capacity to amaze. Here is the first of two blog posts on Paris Photo – this one concentrates on the inside of the fair at Le Grand Palais.
Celebrating it’s twentieth year, a commemorative volume, Paris Photo, 1997-2016, was a compilation of love letters by a cast of curators, photographers, gallery owners, and collectors who have been along for the wild ride. What began as an ambitious (some say audacious) vision by founder Rik Gadella took root – and continues to thrive. Yossi Milo pays an apt tribute to the host city for the myriad reasons to celebrate this outstanding accomplishment.
The Vernissage is one part preview and two parts cocktail party. This invitation-only opening precedes the full four days of the public fair and affords one a festive stroll among the treasures before the crowd thickens. This year Paris Photo welcomed 62,000 visitors.
The magnificent Grand Palais with its famous glass roof is an elegant backdrop. Matching marble staircases curve to a mezzanine featuring Prismes, with large scale work and collections from sponsors J. P. Morgan and BMW. Centre Pompidou exhibited images from acquisitions it acquired over the past 10 years in a section titled, The Pencil of Culture.
Prismes was a knockout with a museum’s worth of large-scale installations – my photos above highlight just three. Polka Gallery presents two of my favorite things, William Klein and Paris, in Klein+Paris. Gallery Shoshana Wayne installed the startling work by Vietnamese photographer, Dinh Q. Lé, titled, TWC in Four Moments, 2016. Four images of the World Trade Towers from different angles were put through After Effects and stretched into unique hanging abstractions measuring 200 metres. Akio Nagasawa and Jean-Kenta Gauthier Galleries exhibit the mesmerizing set of 138 images by Japanese photographer Issei Suda, Fushikaden, from 1978.
Smaller, curated exhibitions by program partners include Leica, with a newcomers award and Huawei, the Chinese smartphone company, featuring in #00 Gallery an exhibit of smartphone images. Pernod Ricard historically gives carte blanche to leading photographers to highlight their global employees in edgy portraiture. This year Senegalese photographer, Omar Victor Diop, collaborated with Senegalese designer, Sally Rabe Kane, in Mindset, their homage to 17 employees with a nod towards traditional African medallion portraiture.
Creative collaborations and use of collage were notable elsewhere in an exciting expansion of what defines photography. Tina Berning and Michelangelo di Battista combine their respective crafts of illustration and fashion photography to produce unique sculptural works such as, Lindsey, 2016, exhibited by Berlin gallery Camera Work. Cologne-based, Julian Sander, exhibited Brooklyn photographer and graphic designer Jory Hull’s collage series, underground improvisation. Robert Currie, represented by Bruce Wolkowitz is known for his sculptural exploration of the medium. Boston-based artist, Rachel Perry, plays with the bounds of photography in her witty and intelligent commentary exhibited by Yancey Richardson. Spanish photographer, Anna Malagrida, represented by Gallery RX, photographs the expressive hands of gamblers in her compilation, Cristal House. And lastly, Portuguese photographer, Helena Almeida, has developed a body of work over 40 years, Corpus. Exhibited by Galerie Les Filles Du Calvaire are her intimate, staged performances, which she does not consider self-portraits and are photographed by her husband, Artur Rosa. The Art Institute of Chicago is giving her a solo show this year.
Following is a mini gallery of images I find compelling and whose punctum pierced my heart.
I conclude with the Aperture/Paris Photo’s three categories of Photo Book Awards. Winners are announced on the second day of the fair, with all shortlisted books protectively displayed. Presently these are exhibited at Aperture in NYC through this weekend, and arrive in Cambridge at the Lunder Art Center of Lesley University College of Art and Design to be on view from August 25 – October 21, 2017. PhotoBook of the Year went to Gregory Halpern for ZZYZY, his seven year exposé of Los Angeles. The First Photobook, which comes with a $10k award, was given to Michael Christopher Brown for his heartbreakingly intimate diary of war coverage in Libyan Sugar. And lastly, the Exhibition Catalog category went to Wojciech Zamecznik Photo-graphics by Karolina Puchala-Rojek and Karolina Ziebinska-Lewandowska.
If you are in the Boston metro region next week, you can enjoy a lively presentation highlighting the best of 2016 Paris Photo with Sybylla Smith and MFA, Boston curator Karen Haas at the Griffin Museum of Photography on Thursday, February 2nd, 2017. For information, go to: https://www.facebook.com/events/396552204020124/
Feature Image: Paris Photo at Le Grand Palais 2016 (photo courtesy of J. Sybylla Smith).
J. Sybylla Smith is an independent curator with over 25 solo and group exhibitions featuring over 80 international photographers exhibited in the U.S., Mexico and South America. Smith consults with individual photographers and arts organizations to develop exhibitions, educational programming and written content including artist statements and marketing material. An adjunct professor, guest lecturer and thesis advisor, Smith has worked with the School of Visual Arts, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Wellesley College, Harvard University, and Emmanuel College. She lectures and conducts workshops on Concept AwareTM, her original creative framework for concept development.