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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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