This November it was all about photography in Paris, when the 18th edition of the “Month of Photography” came about and the world’s leading photography fair “Paris Photo” once again took over the gorgeous Grand Palais. We were on site to have a look at what the 169 galleries and publishers from all over the globe had to offer, taking up the exciting and admittedly overwhelming task of picking what we consider this edition’s standout artists. What’s for certain is that no other event provides such an extensive and varied overview of photography as a medium, illustrating the growingly blurring lines between photography and contemporary art. The latter was also emphasized by the participation of numerous generalist galleries as David Zwirner or Gagosian. A big up to many galleries for proposing booths saying goodbye to the classic white cube concept by breaking holes into walls like New York’s Bruce Silverstein Gallery, painting them in all kinds of colors from green (Gagosian) to brown (Antwerp’s Fifty One Fine Art) or by adding decorative items such as sofas, flowers or special lighting.
Besides Fifty One, Belgium was represented by Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Galerie Paris-Beijing and La Galerie Particulière, a recent addition to the Brussels gallery scene. Plus, we pleasantly discovered that Belgian youngster Maroeskja Lavigne has been taken up by a New York gallery and learned that Pierre et Gilles’ extremely kitschy portrait of Belgian musician Stromae was sold for an incredible $149,000… Anyway, here are our personal top 16 featuring newcomers and old masters alike from Stephen Shore to Todd Hido. Enjoy.
Katsumi Omori, MEM
Katsumi Omori, one of Japan’s most prominent contemporary photographers, captivated us with his sensual and poetic series “Everything happens for the first time”. The images stem from a trip Omori took in 2011 from Tokyo to Fukushima during the cherry blossom season, just after the gigantic earthquake and tsunami had hit Japan. The beauty of Japanese spring and the aftermath of the natural catastrophe make for a mesmerizing mix.
Todd Hido, Galerie Particulière
Parisian Galerie Particulière, which by the way just recently opened up a space in Brussels, impressed visitors with a haunting, dreamy and mysterious solo show of American artist Todd Hido. Evoking a Twin Peaks-like atmosphere, his visual language is heavily charged with psychological tension and emotional drama set in the suburban American landscape. Undoubtedly one of the fair’s most outstanding booths.
Paul Graham, Pace/MacGill
British, New York-based photographer Paul Graham caught our eye with a magical shot of a rainbow-streaked landscape in Ireland. He’s been around for quite a while, and back in the 80s his use of color film had a revolutionizing effect on British photography. Pace/MacGill showed a selection of images from his most recent exhibition “Does Yellow Run Forever?”: a sentimental, sensual and startling exploration of the puzzles of daily life.
Stephen Shore, 303 Gallery
American photographer Stephen Shore is mainly known for his pioneering use of color photography in the 70s as well as his compelling images of banal scenes and objects depicting the mundanity of American life. At Paris Photo New York’s 303 Gallery presented a different side of his work in his very distinctive style: a selection of images shot in and around the homes and villages of Holocaust survivors while traveling through Ukraine. “I have never photographed content as charged as this before”, Shore said.
Brea Souders, Bruce Silverstein
Brea Souders, an emerging artist in her early thirties from New York, blew us away with images from her “Counterforms” series. Mixing different techniques, she creates dazzling, vibrant and all-around gorgeous works exploring the theme of memory through personal items such as an orange peel her father unraveled, an African terrarium she grew up with or things she came across in the country of her ancestors, France. Constantly oscillating between abstraction and representation, her complex and emotive creations are inventive, intriguing and fresh, feeding on fragments of stories and objects. One to watch out for.
Eamonn Doyle, Michael Hoppen
Dublin-based Eamonn Doyle, a photography graduate who spent about two decades in the music business before he took up his camera again in 2008, published his debut photo book last year. Michael Hoppen Gallery showcased a selection from this exact series, consisting of beautiful portraits shot in the streets of Dublin. Photography superstar Martin Parr has described it as “the best street photo book in a decade”. We tend to agree.
Hans-Peter Feldmann, 303 Gallery
Hans-Peter Feldmann, one of Germany’s most prominent contemporary artists, is especially known for skillfully bridging the gap between art and the everyday. Here, he does it once again with his seductive series “Birgit, doing her make-up”, displaying a progression of 73 photographs showing the banal action of a woman applying her make-up from beginning to end, and by doing so turning it into a strange and fascinating process giving quite some food for thought. Also on show: his large-scale, black-and-white bookshelves image and “One Pound Strawberries”, with each strawberry being photographed separately.
Ren Hang, Galerie Paris-Beijing
Under the title “The invisible red line”, Galerie Paris-Beijing dedicated their booth to censorship in China, an incredibly interesting proposition inspiring debate about freedom of speech and the relationship between art and politics. One of the exhibited artists was the young Chinese up-and-comer Ren Hang, who continues to practice his art in his home country despite arrests and an exhibition ban on his pictures. Paris-Beijing filled a whole wall with numerous prints of differing sizes, creating a compelling mosaic of Hang’s provocative and, for Chinese standards, radical work. His fresh, original, unconventional photographs depict many nudes but not in an erotically charged way. Using naked bodies, he creates images of strange human sculptures and plays with forms and visual norms.
Christian Patterson, Robert Morat
When we went to check out Christian Patterson’s installation at Robert Morat Gallery it was surrounded by kids. The interactive element and original and playful simplicity of “The Fond du Lac Telephone” not only appealed to art buffs but also to the youngest ones. The installation includes a telephone accompanied by a photograph of all its parts and a phone book of people and places that can be called by dialing the telephone numbers listed. The over 50 telephone numbers and over 150 possible call experiences open up a portal to another place and time: the artist’s hometown of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin in the early 1970s.
Maroeskja Lavigne, Robert Mann
A few years ago we fell in love with Maroeskja Lavigne’s spellbinding Iceland series. What a pleasant surprise to see the young Belgian talent’s work taken up by New York gallery Robert Mann! On show were two of her signature landscape shots from her travels through Iceland, magical snow sceneries characterized by a deep whiteness with contrasting pops of colour.
Eric Poitevin, Peter Freeman Inc.
Peter Freeman Inc. presented a powerful solo show featuring the works of French artist Eric Poitevin, combining images from older and new series to one exciting mix. He is known for photographing animals, people and plants in front of monochrome backgrounds, adding an element of neutrality and stripping away affectation while focusing on depicting one single moment suspended in time. Serene, static and carefully arranged, Poitevin’s silent and naked photographs confront the viewer with parts of reality.
Rinko Kawauchi, Priska Pasquer
Cologne-based Priska Pasquer gallery made us pause in front of this magnificent piece by Japanese photographer Rinko Kawauchi, whose work you might have discovered last year during her solo exhibition at Antwerp’s FoMu. Her poetic, lush images strike you with their fascinating calmness, serenity and timeless beauty.
Kechun Zhang, Threeshadows
Chinese photographer Kechun Zhang drew us in with poetic images from his series “The Yellow River”, photographs he took in China and Mongolia while traveling along one of Asia’s longest waterways. His beautiful, soft and washed-out images tell the story of life along the river with a focus on environmental destruction.
Lauren Marsolier, Robert Koch
French artist Lauren Marsolier is an absolute master in image composition. Her skillfully constructed photographs impress with their simple beauty, mainly displaying gorgeous, deserted geometric landscapes. Interestingly, she assembles elements from different photographs together in one, blurring the lines between the natural and the constructed.
Susanna Majuri, Gallery Taik Persons
Gallery Taik Persons, based in Berlin, is specialized in the so-called Helsinki School. At Paris Photo this intriguing image of a woman in an outside swimming pool by Finnish photographer Susanna Majuri directly caught our eye. “My photographs can be seen as different places of emotions. I want to narrate feelings like in novels. I photograph strangers, they invoke my desire, and I ask them to come with me. I conceal my dreams and desires in images. Water paints with me; it merges the people and the landscapes together. Feelings can be revealed, but remain hidden”, the artists says about her work.
Andres Serrano, Nathalie Obadia
The booth of Nathalie Obadia Gallery, which also has a branch in Brussels, especially fascinated viewers with the monumental, gripping and powerful portraits by American photographer Andres Serrano, whose “Nomads” series gives a face to New York’s homeless.
Paris Photo 2014