Fotograf Magazine

Paris Photo 2003

Whether it is also the most important event is hard to judge, for although the New York AIPAD, Paris Photo’s principal rival, boasts a significantly lower attendance, specialists claim that among the visitors of AIPAD there is a far higher percentage of serious collectors, as opposed to mere viewers. In any case, in Paris one does encounter more fresh work from authors of the younger and middle generation, who have more difficulty in penetrating the more conservative AIPAD fair. It appears that the efforts to found another fair in New York, one focusing on more contemporary photography, has failed after a single, rather unsuccessful year of the Armory Photography Show in October 2002.

Paris Photo’s founder, Rick Gadella, sold his successful fair some time ago to the major firm Reed Exhibitions, who annually organize dozens of commercial exhibitions of contemporary art, electronics, medical equipment, and food products. As a result, many feared that significant changes would occur. Fortunately, this has not really been the case. Rick Gadella has remained the artistic director, and the fair has continued to feature a number of samples of the most up to date tendencies in both classical and digital photography. To no small degree this is helped by the tradition of each year subsidizing the expenses of the presentation of galleries of one particular country. This year, the country chosen was Mexico, whose photography was represented by the recently deceased Alvarez Bravo and by living authors such as Graciela Iturbide, Marianna Yampolsky, and Pedro Meyer, and which has in recent years gained ever-growing attention. Eight galeries were invited to participate in Paris Photo and each presented one or two photographers, who either developed the favorite themes of Mexican photography (death, religion or the overlapping of reality and dream) or focused on more contemporary topics of changing identity, devastation of the landscape or the globalization of lifestyle. The fact that presenting a country’s work at Paris Photo may significantly help to promote the photography of that region worldwide has not escaped the notice of governments, institutions and foundations. Thus the government of the Regional Committe of North Rheinland – Westphalia for the second time funded a significant part of the expenses of the 15 participants from its region, including the publishing of a handsome catalogue with texts in three languages. Many of these exhibitors could thus afford to present their most progressive work irregardless of commercial concerns.

By contrast, the Leica Gallery Prague, the very first Czech representative at Paris Photo, had to cover all its expenses without any such help, and as a result naturally could not feature only the work of one or two less well-known authors. Yet it passed its premiere there very well. Leica Gallery Prague brought to Paris a broad range of photographs from daguerreotypes, original Sudek prints and work by already established contemporary photographers Jan Saudek, Dagmar Hochová, Eva Fuková, Pavel Baňka, Jindřich Štreit, Jan Pohribný, Pavel Mára and Václav Jirásek, to works by students of photography schools. They managed to find buyers for about fifty photographs, two portfolios, and a number of books and catalogues, which surely can be considered a success. The works of the classics of Czech photography were of course on offer also by French, German, Austrian and American galeries (for instance, Sudek’s photographs featured in the sales catalogues of eight foreign galeries). Otherwise, post-communist countries were, as usual, represented by several galeries apart from Leica Gallery Prague. The kiosks of Vintage Gallery, Budapest and the Hungarian dealer living in Paris, Csaba Morocz, featured above all the work of the lesser-known Hungarian modernists of the 1920s and 30s. (Imre Kinszki, Klára Langer, Rogi André) whereas the director of the Moscow House of Photography, Olga Sviblova, presented in the exhibition of her Paris based Carré Noir Galery the computer-manipulated staged scenes of the AES+F group, of children playing with modern arms.

In general one could say that the last Paris Photo demonstrated an extraordinary scope in terms of both subject and style among the exhibited work, without the marked dominance of any single tendency. More space was given to period originals by avant-garde artists, offered at prices mostly ranging in tens of thousands of Euro (in the case of some works by Man Ray at the Michael Senft Masterworks kiosk achieving six figure sums). Documentary and reportage photography was also amply represented (Henri Cartier- Bresson, W. Eugene Smith, William Klein, Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand, Weegee, Bruce Davidson, Anthony Hernandez, Martin Parr, Nan Goldin, etc.) as were nudes, erotic and fashion photography (Horst P. Horst, Frank Horvat, Peter Lindbergh and above all Helmut Newton, whose single small picture of 1976 was sold by the New York based Howard Greenberg Gallery for 48,000 Euro), staged photographs (such as those by William Wegman, Kahn and Selesnick), conceptual photography, and giant prints of descriptive portraits and landscapes in the style of the so-called Düsseldorf School. On the other hand, there were next to none of the provocative erotic photographs bordering on pornography so frequently seen the previous year at Paris Photo, and there was also comparatively little of the mixture of painting and photography. Even though classical photography still predominated, many contemporary authors presented large format digital prints. In short, Paris Photo reflected both the strong position of photography among the contemporary arts, and the diversity of contemporary creative trends and technologies.


Vladimír Birgus