Paris Photo 2017 – highlights from this year’s fair

Paris Photo turned 21 this year and with a formidable line-up of shows the 2017 edition at the Grand Palais was another chance to see some of the world’s best photography – and gauge how the medium is evolving

November marks the month of the photo in Paris. It also marks the second anniversary of the Bataclan terrorist attacks. The 2015 edition of Paris Photo was closed for security concerns just two days into its opening, while last year’s edition saw a reduction in visitor numbers. This year, however, the crowds were back in force for the 21st edition with over 64,000 entries and a prevailing sense of optimism both in the work on exhibit and in the galleries.

Denis Dailleux, Ghana, 2016 © Denis Dailleux. Artwork exhibited by Le Bec en L’air
Paul Graham, Man in Red Polo Shirt Looking Up, 42nd Street, 2008 © Paul Graham. Artwork courtesy Pace and Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

Karl Lagerfeld was this year’s guest of honour. As a fashion designer, photographer and collector of photography and photobooks, he ushered fashion photography in from the cold and into the salon with his selection of 100 guest picks.

Guy Bourdin, Vogue Paris, December 1969 © The Guy Bourdin Estate 2017 / Courtesy of Louise Alexander Gallery. Fujiflex Crystal Archive Print. Artwork exhibited by Louise Alexander

These included works by Guy Bourdin (above), Richard Avedon, Melvin Sokolsky and Irving Penn’s Mascara Wars (below), the latter neatly tying in with Penn’s current retrospective underway at the opposite end of the Grand Palais.

Irving Penn, Mascara Wars, New York, 2001 © Condé Nast

This year saw film and video included for the first time, in classic short formats – On The Beach by Goran Skofic, Koropa by Laura Henno (below) and Tanker by Noémie Goudal (also below) – which felt a little out of place.

“More and more photographers are turning to the medium of video, often for the same project used in two ways,” said Marie Magnier, director of the Filles du Calvaire Gallery in Paris. “It is primordial to show their work in its entirety.”

Koropa, Laura Henno, 2016. Courtesy Spectre Production et Galerie Les filles du calvaire
Noémie Goudal, Tanker (2014). Courtesy Galerie Les filles du calvaire

The potential of the medium was more subtly tackled by Jim Campbell’s stunning photo-video, Rainy Day in Paris (below), a backlit still of a road crossing with the blur of a car passing in video, enhancing the medium and inducing a whole slew of viewers to plaster their faces against the frame-edge to try to figure out how it’s done.

Jim Campbell, Rainy Day in Paris, 2016 © Jim Campbell. Custom electronics, LEDs, treated Plexiglas. Artwork exhibited by Bryce Wolkowitz
Pascale Marthine Tayou, Kids Mascarade, Galleria Continua, 2009. C-print mounted on Dibond. 100 x 75 cm, unique work. Courtesy: Galleria Continua, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins / Habana

The tendency to eliminate the line between photography and abstract painting is also on the rise, as demonstrated by Liz Nielsen’s work (NextLevel Gallery, below) and by artist Yoshitomo Nara’s first foray into photography, presenting his paintings and photos side by side in a double frame.

Liz Nielsen, Geothermal Stone 2017 © Courtesy the artist and NextLevel Galerie, Paris 256.5 x 127 cm, unique analog chromogenic photogram. Artwork by NextLevel
Xiaoliang Huang, East Window: Untitled #150823, 2016 © Courtesy of M97 Shanghai. 120 x 180 cm. Artwork exhibited by: M97

The Bruce Silverstein gallery enjoyed great success, stopping visitors in their tracks with Mishka Henner’s chilling Trompe l’Oeil on the outside wall of its exhibition space – an instantly recognisable portrait of Donald Trump despite a Klu Klux Klan-style mask revealing nothing but his rheumy eyes.

Mishka Henner, Trompe l’œil, 2017. Acrylic case and inkjet print mounted to dibond. Edition of 6 © Mishka Henner, Courtesy Bruce Silverstein Gallery, New York

Rare prints by Man Ray from his surrealist Portemanteau portfolio were also on display. On the day of Paris Photo’s opening, the artist’s Noire et Blanche (1926), the iconic portrait of his muse and mistress, Kiki de Montparnassse, posed with a tribal mask, was sold at Christie’s for a record € 2.6 million, further cementing photography’s place as an art form to be reckoned with.

August Sander, Painter (Heinrich Hoerle), 1928 © Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur / August Sander Archiv, Köln / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. 60.4×79.4 cm. Gelatin silver print. Artwork exhibited by Julian Sander

Famous portraits were much in evidence, too, from Elliott Erwitt’s idealistic portrait of Che Guevara directing his visionary gaze to the sky; Richard Avedon’s gelatine silver print studies of Ezra Pound and William Burroughs; Annie Leibobivz’s one of only three master set prints of Mick Jagger, Chicago, 1975; not to mention Lewis Carroll’s portrait of Alexandra Kitchin (below).

It’s good to see the salon back at its upbeat best. Rendez-vous same place – Paris’ Grand Palais –  same time, November 8 to 12, in 2018.

Paris Photo 2017 took place at the Grand Palais, November 8-11. See parisphoto.com

Lewis Carroll, Xie (Alexandra) Kitchin as a ‘Dane’, 1876 © Courtesy of Hans P. Kraus Jr., New York. 21.0 x 16.5 cm. Albumen print from a collodion negative. Artwork exhibited by Hans P Kraus Jr

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