Paris Photo is one of the highlights of our year. We’ve been going for years now, its a fantastic way to view contemporary and classic photography, discover new photographers and galleries, meet up with like minded collectors and also enjoy time in the city of lights!
In 2017 we decided to take our 9 year old daughter, Coco, with us. She likes photography – taking it as well as looking at it, so we thought it would be something to enjoy as a family for a change.
The fair is held in the Grand Palais which is absolutely mesmerising. Incredible light and architecture. It was the 20th edition of the fair, featuring 89 contributors, below is just a small section of whats on offer…
We normally go early on in the week but this time we were there over the weekend. It was mobbed! Amazing to see how much the Parisians love their photography, there were all age groups and types of people there.
This year didn’t disappoint. We started off our visit with Hamiltons, a London gallery specialising in photography. As usual their stand was wonderful, an incredible selection of great photography – Irving Penn, Horst P Horst, Helmut Newton, Araki, Cathleen Naundorf, Roger Ballen, Erwin Olaf – beautifully styled and lit.
As we wandered around the fair, recognising work by many of the greatest photographers who have ever lived, we spotted some interesting work on a gallery stand that we hadn’t come across before, Catharine Clark Gallery from San Fransisco. It was this work, picturing an orchid covered in grey spray paint by Stephanie Syjuco:
We got chatting to Catharine, the gallery owner. She explained to us that Stephanie, who was born in the Philippines and studied in the US, produced a series of these works entitled ‘Neutral Orchids’. The work explores how colonialism has gradually masked out and claimed cultural references, such as the Orchid, which is now well known as an interior decorators favourite flower rather than a native Filippino plant. Stephanie wanted to see what would happen if she covered up the flower with a dull grey paint, masking out its natural beauty. Interestingly, although many of the plants eventually died, some continued to bloom and burst out of their grey repression. The work was visually enticing and beautifully staged, yet with such a powerful message.
Catharine showed us other work by the same photographer, from a series called ‘Cargo Cult’:
In this series of self portraits, the photographer features herself adorned in what initially seem to be tribal costumes. However the items are in fact all purchased from low priced high street US shops, labels left on, and returned for refunds after the shoot. The works have so many layers to them, again investigating and commenting on reappropriation of culture, mainly how retailers have claimed tribal patterns and motifs as their own. I absolutely loved this work; the way the images are staged and the various messages contained in them. I particulary like thought provoking work and these are works I would happily have on the wall at home and enjoy living with. Stephanie Syjuco was without doubt our highlight of this year’s fair.
Whilst we were busy chatting about this work, Coco had wandered off to listen to a video piece on the same stand. She’d picked up the headphones and was giggling away to herself. The work she was enjoying was by Nina Katchadourian, whose work you may have come across as she is in quite a few major collections and has shown in some key institutions. The video piece in question was from an ongoing series of work called ‘Seat Assignment’, which features 2,500 videos and images taken on over 250 air flights. All are documented on a simple camera phone and are essentially selfies taken in airplane toilets. The photographer improvises and uses whatever materials are available, mainly toilet paper and plastic bags, to fashion headdresses and accessories for herself. The selfies appear initially to be traditional Flemish portraiture from the 15th century, but on closer inspection they reveal themselves for what they are.
Coco loved these works! She found them hilarious and enjoyed the fact that the art is in the idea rather than it being all about draughtmanship. She’s been a bit disillusioned by art at school recently, finding it boring and uninspiring, so this reignited her interest in thinking outside the box.
By this point we’d spent a good couple of hours at the fair, so after a quick refuel (French cafe cremes and an energy fueling Coca Cola for Coco), we squeezed in as much of the rest of the fair as we could. Some of the images that caught our eye are shown below:
We had such an interesting and enjoyable time, polished off with a wonderful evening in Paris and Waffles for breakfast before heading back to London the next day. I’m looking forward to next year’s edition already!
Paris Photo 2017
9-12 November, Grand Palais