To Paris for the vernissage of the 18th edition of Paris Photo, a rich tapestry of photography from all corners of the globe covering a wide range of styles and subjects. 143 galleries from 35 countries populate the hallowed Nave of the Grand Palais, its beautiful glass roof providing an unusual canopy for this annual temporary exposition showcasing some of the best photographers past and present.
Where else would you come across Robert Mapplethorpe, Richard Avedon, Brassai, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Herb Ritts, Roger Ballen, Nan Goldin, Man Ray and W.Eugene Smith under one roof? The roll call of stars from the photographic firmament is endless, and a visit here before it ends on 16 November would provide endless inspiration for the budding photographer and art enthusiast alike. For the book lover there is also a section offering an eclectic selection of publications from Taschen, Aperture, Steidl and more.
View of Paris Photo by Lee Sharrock
As well as the ubiquitous fashion photographers such as Tim Walker at London’s Michael Hoppen Gallery, Herb Ritts at Hamiltons, Avedon at Gagosian Gallery with a suite of Versace clad 90s Supermodels, and the late great Corinne Day whose photos of Kate Moss prove the enduring popularity of the Supers, there is also more cerebral and thought-provoking work on display. If you like political allegory in your photography head to; Cape Town gallery Stevenson’s stand for Pieter Hugo and Guy Tillim; New York’s Black Ship Gallery for the This is What Hatred Did series by Cristina de Middel which features children affected by war in Nigeria; or Parisian gallery Karsten Greve for uncompromising allegories of modern-day South African politics by Roger Ballen.
Some eye-catching self-portraits by Omar Victor Diop at Parisian galerie Magnin-A examine questions of race and identity and reference colonialism; Chilean gallery AFA exhibits images of tranvestisism by Paz Errazuriz; and a selection of erotically-charged prints by Robert Mapplethorpe, beautifully curated by Isabelle Huppert, featured portraits of contemporary icons including Debbie Harry and Patti Smith. There is also some brilliant observational imagery by Bruce Davidson and William Eggleston at Rose Gallery, and Nan Goldin at Guido Costa Projects. For those seeking pure beauty there are some life-affirming prints of Chinese blossom by Katsumi Omori at Tokyo gallery MEM.
Katsumi Omori at MEM Gallery
For me amongst all the classics there emerged a new star in the form of Paolo Ventura (at Amsterdam’s Flatland gallery). His heart-warming self-portraits with his son and identical twin, created at weekends where they act out imaginary scenes against hand-painted theatre-style backdrops, are composed as multiple images with a narrative. They pay homage to cinema verite, mime and traditional storytelling, enabling the viewer to escape for a moment into an imaginary world. For the best photography can either be a reflection of, or an escape from the real world, and we all need to do that from time to time.
Paris Photo, Grand Palais, Paris until 16 November.
Words Lee Sharrock