A Paris Eye on Photography: Paris Photo
Every November I look forward to attending Paris Photo, the annual international art fair dedicated to photography. Founded in 1997, and normally held at the Grand Palais, it has been held instead at the Grand Palais Ephémère for the past three years while the Grand Palais is being renovated for the 2024 Summer Olympics. This is a temporary exhibition hall opened in 2021 meant to be dismantled in 2024.
I will not be unhappy when the dismantling happens as the building blocks the once beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower from Ecole Militaire. And while the neighborhood is much better for the attendees and exhibitors of Paris Photo because of the amenities in close proximity (hotels, apartments, restaurants, cafés and even supermarkets), the space isn’t nearly as exciting to be in as the Grand Palais itself. Once in the building, if you walk as far back as is possible, the view of La Grande Dame is amazing. I caught it on my iPhone at dusk just before the sky went pitch black.
Still, visiting Paris Photo for the aficionado of photography is a must. I began collecting photography in the late 1980s when living in Los Angeles. At the time, photography was relatively affordable for the not-so-deep-pocketed collector. I was drawn to vintage fashion photography, contemporary works and something one might call “baroque tableaux.” Galley owners and dealers became my colleagues and friends. I worked for a gallerist for a while as a sales person (I wasn’t very good at it) and worked with another, Theresa Luisotti, who helped me amass my collection. Together we hosted a couple of exhibitions in our home. She has since opened her own gallery, of very high regard within the industry, which has a substantial booth every year at Paris Photo.
Collecting was a creative and exciting hobby that led to a collection that has created the kind of artistic environment I’d always dreamed of having. The photos are my dear friends and family now having spent all these years on my walls watching our lives. Meanwhile, the value of the works increased dramatically in the forthcoming years, as photography as a medium and art form was taken more seriously than just a “craft.”
So, it wasn’t a shock when my daughter picked up a camera during college and began creating her own photographic images. She grew up surrounded by the medium in all its forms and took to it from both the artistic and mechanical perspectives. She is currently in Africa with friends on a safari and visiting with the Maasai people, with a brand new camera and a recent report that she “got some amazing photos.” I can’t wait to see them all.
The first photography emerged about 200 years ago, with a century of the development of photographic techniques. It was seen then as a mechanical reproduction of reality, lacking creativity. But over the time, acceptance grew wielded by a new generation of artists. To counter the conservative stance, societies like The Royal Photographic Society and the Société Française de Photographie were established in the 1850s. Despite early exhibitions treating photography as an outcome of the Industrial Revolution, pioneering efforts in small galleries, especially in early 20th-century New York, solidified photography’s position as fine art. Over the 20th century, photography diversified in forms and techniques, with the introduction of color photography in 1935 being a notable milestone.
Along came photographers like Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Paul Strand and Dorothea Lange, among others, who contributed to the expanding realm of fine art photography. Portraiture, a natural role for photography, evolved through the 20th-century with contributions from fashion, street, and formal portrait artists.
I’ve appreciated all aspects of the art which takes on many facets. There is photographic art and then there is art with photography as the medium. In today’s world, the works overlap and new forms are emerging. This year’s Paris Photo is filled with such works that incorporate photography into artistic works that employ other media as well. There is also a large showing of images in sets, series or grids so that no one stands alone, but each profits from being only a small part of a whole. There were very few galleries this year that did not have at least one grid of photos on display. Another obvious aspect of this year’s fair was the overwhelming presence of women photographers. Women in this world are currently hot ticket items. This does not displease me.
Some of the world’s finest galleries are represented at Paris Photo. Two of my favorites from Los Angeles with whom I worked closely include Fahey/Klein and of course, Gallery Luisotti. Both their showings were impressive. Gallery Les Filles du Calvaire from my Paris neighborhood had a beautiful exhibit well worth a visit. Yossi Milo from New York is always on my “must-stop-by-and-say-hello” list as he always shows very beautiful and innovative work.
One trip to Paris Photo isn’t enough. The sensory overload is just that—overwhelming and a few hours is more than enough in one round. So, I headed back on Saturday for another few hours to complete visits to the galleries missed the first time around, say hello again to my favorites and to visit the section of publishers selling all of their beautiful books and magazines. Events were taking place including a book-signing by Joel Meyerowitz, the only photographer to be admitted to the Ground Zero site in New York to cover the attacks of September 11, 2001.
The catalog from Paris Photo can be downloaded here.
Don’t miss Paris Photo next year, when it returns to the Grand Palais.
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group®
Adrian at the VIP Lounge at Paris Photo
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