Archive for November, 2012

Paris: Thursday Morning

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Paris Photo doesn’t open until noon, so I had the morning to see some shows outside before returning to continue my work inside there. I suppose the kind of people who buy photographs don’t like to get up too early – or perhaps there is some other reason for them keeping the hours they do. I suppose it does mean some people will come on there after work as it stays open until mid-evening.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

It was raining slightly and rather cold as we left our hotel and walked to the Place de la Bataille-de-Stalingrad, where I’ve previously been many times to admire one of Paris’s great buildings, the Rotonde de la Villette, a classical cylinder designed by Claude Nicolas Ledoux and built shortly before the Revolution as the offices for the tax collectors and guards who took the taxes on goods entering Paris. Now it’s been renovated and La Rotonde is a restaurant, but I’d not come here to eat but to see a Magnum show that was about to finish which was on the open area between it and the Bassin de la Villete.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

Surrounding a large closed tent were a number of double-sided stands, linked to the tent by a like the tentacles of an over-legged octopus. Each of the 36 carried a series of pictures of a young entrepreneur, the founder of a micro-enterprise, and they incorporated loudspeakers which told you their story. The photographs, as you would expect from Alex Majoli and Jonas Bendiksen, were competent, but this was largely good commercial work than portraiture with more depth. I listened to a couple of the stories, then left Linda listening and walked around the area taking more pictures.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

The area has been tidied up a lot in recent years, and what was once a slightly disreputable place is has gone up considerably in the world, although with many of the old canal-side buildings having gone and new modern offices and other buildings having sprung up it is rather less interesting. Some find the métro aérien whose viaduct goes across the square ugly, but it is certainly truly Parisian, and I rather admire its heavy nineteenth century ironwork.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

The trees are covered with bright yellow leaves – its the time of year when once I used to hide the colour film and work only in black and white, there are only so many autumn images I ever want to take – and I indulge myself a little, before turning back to the austere pavilion.

Eventually Linda has listened to enough of the stories and we leave, walking south down beside the Canal St Martin, past a couple of locks to one of my favourite Paris views – I have a salt print I made years ago hanging in my living room (I don’t quite go back to the Fox Talbot era, but got interested in trying out the historic processes including salt printing, platinum, gum bichromate, cyanotype and more that I had to mention in the history course I taught.) I like to go back there and see how it has changed and also try to make some slightly different views.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Rue Bichat/Quai de Jemmapes, Paris 10e, 2012

At this point I lost Linda who had gone to look at the park opposite while I was taking pictures, and I found I couldn’t get a signal to phone her. Eventually I saw her in the distance and we met up, but by now it was rather later than I’d expected, and we walked quickly down to the Place de la République, close to which were several galleries which were open from 11am. I’d written down the address of the first with the wrong street number, which made it hard to find, but being Paris, we found two other galleries with unlisted shows first, which were actually slightly more interesting.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

Our next stop was one of Paris’s nicer galleries, la galerie Les Filles-du-Calvaire  which was showing Corinne Mercadier‘s Devant un champ obscur. The lower floor (above) had a series of large colour prints of scenes taken in what seemed to be an empty and deserted building, all of which had been inverted to a negative.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

On the upper floor were staged images, some involving people with blocks or balls. it wasn’t really my sort of work. There is what seems to be a full set of the images on the gallery site, and if like me you are curious about the negative images you can copy them and drop them into Photoshop and then invert them (Ctrl+I). Of course I wouldn’t dream of posting Mercardier’s images treated in that way here, but here’s a more or less random image from my own collection (actually a crop from a panorama I was working with yesterday) treated in the same way. The clouds certainly gain in menace.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Gravesend, 2000

I know of photographers who always scan their transparencies as negatives and then invert them, claiming that with their software and hardware they get better results, though I’ve never found that to be the case. But certainly the negative world is a rather strange case as many photographers know, and back in the days when we all used black and white film we got quite adept at mentally flipping negatives to visualise the positive they would print. Colour negatives added a different dimension (and an orange mask) that made this – at least for me – largely impossible.

The first negative prints in the world of photography of course date from before W H F Talbot, who produced them in camera in the 1830s as ‘photogenic drawings’ (and a little later as calotype negatives), to the cameraless experiments of Wedgewood and others, and at Paris Photo there were a few examples of prints from the earliest photographically illustrated book, the splendid Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions by Anna Atkins which she started to publish in 1843.

Mercadier’s large negative images were made from much more subdued subject matter than my trivial example, and the large expanses of white wall in the deserted building result in very dark images, powerfully so. They had a presence that I found lacking in the dream-like staging in her works in the upper gallery, which to me bordered on the ridiculous, a kind of game-playing of ultimate insignificance, bolstered by the kind of philosophical statements which the French education system glorifies and inducts.

It was time for an early lunch, taken in a brasserie full of Parisians, many noisily celebrating the arrival of the Beaujolais Nouveau, a triumph of advertising over common sense and taste. I had to work in the afternoon and stuck to a single glass of beer with my extremely tasty plat du jour, Beef bourguignon with some deliciously cooked pastry wrapped potatoes and bread, though a red, but certainly not Beaujolais Nouveau, would have been even more appropriate.


Paris Photo – Wednesday pm

Monday, November 26th, 2012

 © 2012, Peter Marshall

Wednesday afternoon was the press preview, followed by the ‘vernissage’ and I’d already applied for and received my press pass, so all I had to do was to find the entrance. It took me a little while, as I started by finding the very long queues for the Hopper exhibition and then turned in the wrong direction, managing to walk virtually the whole way around the outside of the building (and its a very large building) before finding Paris Photo. After managing to get into the steps leading down to the show I was then sent back to find the press entrance, where I was given some documentation and finally, having had by then half a dozen security men wave readers at my card, magic wands over my body and peering into my bag was allowed to enter.

I decided to start by trying to see every stand, walking around the show in a logical fashion so as not to miss anything, stopping when I saw anything that interested me, and taking notes, but the magnitude of the show soon defeated me, and too often my handwriting does also.

So the comments I’m going to make are somewhat fragmentary, and don’t really represent the show as a whole, but are some of the highlights, and in particular will concentrate on a few things that were new to me. Take it as read that there were many good – if now familiar – images by many well-known names, as well as a great deal of work that I found without much if any interest (and much of it printed very large in colour.)

On the Robert Mann stand, some black and white work from the last decade by John Mack in Mexico stood out, with some strongly graphic images, though perhaps a little old-fashioned. Nothing wrong with that and some of the best work there was from the 1930s in Paris by Fred Stein. They also had one of the few good Robert Frank prints in the show.

At the galerie Le Réverbère from Lyon there were several photographers of interest new to me, and I particularly enjoyed the work of Géraldine Lay (b1972), Les failles ordinaires, a series of images of ‘fault lines’ in ordinary reality, some of which have a rather Hopperesque quality. You can see more of her work on her web site. They were also one of several stands to be showing work by William Klein, and you there is a link to an interview with him on the Lensculture blog which I watched yesterday.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

Another stand which caught my interest was Gungallery from Stockholm, not just for the work by Anders Petersen, largely familiar to me, but for a group of pictures by Gerry Johansson. You can see work from his various books on his web site, including Deutschland. Looking at his work I immediately thought of Robert Adams, and picking up the book Oglunda and opening it I found myself reading an appreciative foreword by Adams.

One area was devoted to the 30 short-listed books in the Photobook of the Year Award, and I’m pleased to hear that Anders Petersen’s City Diary – three straightforward volumes of photographs which to me stood out head and shoulders above most of the rest for both the quality of the photography and for the simplicity and effectiveness of its design – was the winner. Some of the others seemed to have been selected simply for their tricksy design despite the often banal images, and at least one seemed to lack all the basic qualities of an actual book. Out of the 10 there were only perhaps two or three I would have made space for on my shelves had I been sent copies for review – including those by Lise Sarfati and possibly Stephen Shore – though I didn’t think the print on demand volume showed his work too well. Overall, the standard of the First Photobook Prize was perhaps higher. Although I wouldn’t myself have picked the winner, David Galjaard‘s Concresco, it was an interesting set of pictures. Other interesting books were by Lucas Foglia and Jerome Sessini, and Cristina de Middell deserved a prize for humour for her images of the Zambian space program. She has just been announced as one of those short-listed for the 2013 Deutsche Börse photography prize. Though I hope it goes to Chris Killip, it seems unlikely and I can only agree with Sean O’Hagan about that and the nomination of de Middell.

The Magnum stand was perhaps a little disappointing, though a collection of images by Raymond Depardon mainly taken in the San Clemente Psychiatric Hospital in 1979 stood out.

There were tributes to Louis Stettner, marking his 90th birthday – and most of his best work was from his early years in Paris, so this was a fitting place, as well as to Martine Franck who died in August, aged 74.

Other shows within the show included one from the J P Morgan Chase Art Collection. It started well, with a couple of Cartier-Bresson‘s best (and one also-ran), and a couple of good Walker Evans images among his four and the same for Robert Frank. 11 by Eggleston seemed rather too many for such a small show, and then there were four Friedlanders and 3 Winogrands. After all this, the portrait of a farmer by Eve Arnold and two by Lynne Cohen came as rather an anti-climax. It looked as if the curator had got to that point and suddenly realised that there were no pictures by women in the show and searched desperately for anything that might fill the gap. Surely there are better images by women – these women or others – in the 6000 in the JP Morgan collection? Perhaps an Arbus or two and a Nan Goldin?

As usual many of the best colour prints on show, and quite a few of the black and white, were inkjet prints, though there were at least one hundred and one ways of making that less obvious to the label reader (and far too many pictures that didn’t have any label, as well as some that you would have had to get on your knees to read.)  But there were vintage C-types, almost always recognisable by an overall orange or brown cast as they continue to decay, though this does not yet seem to have affected their prices.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

There was, as in previous years, some interesting Japanese photography on several stands, and I was also amused by the photocollages of Toshiko Okanoue, at the Third Gallery Aya from Osaka which was showing the work of 4 Japanese women, with Ishiuchi Miyako, Yamazawa Eiko, Akasaki Mima and her.

There was so much more. Kertesz, another photographer who made Paris his home, had work on so many stands, but particularly on that of Vintage from Hungary. Weegee too came up on several, there were a few by Leon Levinstein I don’t recall having seen before. The Feroz Gallery, founded by Julian Sander, great grandson of August Sander had a nice wall of grandfather’s prints, while another stand had an unfortunate collection of bad copies made by Sherrie Levine, along with her lousy copies of Walker Evans, work which I can’t accept has any validity or place on an exhibition wall – the only place it belongs is as an exhibit in a copyright court.

By around 7.30pm I was exhausted, and since no-one seemed to be offering me any of the champagne they were drinking I decided it was time to leave and get something real to eat and drink.


Not All Lives are Equal

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

The reports of a fire in a Bangladesh garment factory in which more than a hundred people – probably 124, with more than a hundred injured – were killed shocked but did not surprise.  Fires such as this are not unusual in South Asia, and indeed as The Guardian pointed out, one in Karachi in September killed over 280. We get cheap clothing at a high price for those who make it.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
War on Want hand out ‘Exploitation – Not OK Anywhere leaflets outside
Olympic Sponsor Adidas on Oxford St

Campaigns such as War on Want‘s Love fashion – hate sweatshops, No Sweat and the Clean Clothes Campaign have been fighting for years along with trade unions and labour rights organisations around the world – including Bangladesh – to get decent working conditions and pay in the clothing trade, but their actions are undermined by both local employers who exploit their workers (and often evade or ignore what laws there are about safety and conditions) and by multinational companies that demand goods at ever lower costs and fail to insist that the products they buy are produced under acceptable conditions – though their PR often tells a different story.

It’s worth reading the thoughts of Shahidul Alam from Bangladesh in Not all lives are equal, which includes some disturbing images. The site also has links to reports on the tragic fire from The Guardian and the BBC. There is also a statement about the case on the Clean Clothes Campaign site.


October 2012

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

My London Diary: October 2012

© 2012, Peter Marshall

In my rush to get to Paris earlier this month I ran out of time to complete putting work from October on My London Diary – I’d finished up to the 27th but there were a couple more events to add. This morning I’ve finally managed to finish the job, so here is the listing:

More Protests for Women in Yarl’s Wood
Arrest the Indonesian President

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Zombies were out in force on the Saturday before Halloween

Zombie Crawl of the Dead

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Carole Duggan points towards Downing St and calls for justice

No More Police Killings, Time For Justice

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Anne Hall, mother of Daniel Roque Hall speaking outside the Justice Ministry
Don’t Sentence Daniel Roque Hall to Death
Kurds on Hunger Strike in London
BHP Billingtona AGM Stop Dirty Energy
End Indian Nuclear Projects
Against Workfare and Tax Cheats

© 2012, Peter Marshall
A Future That Works TUC March
Edequal Stands with Malala
Against Austerity For Climate Justice!
Fight for Sites go to Evict Pickles
Elephant Views

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Green IS Working

© 2012, Peter Marshall
End the Vilification of Islam
Occupy Global Noise Street Party
Zombies Invade London
Solidarity with Japanese Nuclear Activists
G4S Killed Jimmy Mubenga
In Protest Opening

© 2012, Peter Marshall
The front of the protest march in Kilburn
Rehouse the Counihans
Muslims against Anti-Muslim Film
Britain First – Muslim Grooming
Save Our Hospitals – Shepherds Bush
Justice For Yarl’s Wood Women
NHS Lone Protest – Narinder Kapur
Shut Down Guantánamo, Halt Extraditions
Support for March for Justice 2012

As you can see, I had a fairly busy month.


Gilles Perrin

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

I’ve several times written about the work of Gilles Perrin, which impressed me when I first saw it in Birmingham in 2007, so I’m sorry I won’t be able to go to Paris on November 30th to celebrate both his 65th birthday and his new web site.

It’s a site that shows an impressive range of work, and as well as the many projects on people that I’ve often admired I was particularly interested in the section of panoramic urban landscapes in Urbanisme 2006-12 and also there are some fine black and white panoramics in the ‘Paysage’ section.  I’ve worked with my own panoramic images for over 20 years and of course run the Urban Landscapes site with Mike Seaborne so it’s a genre that has fascinated me for years, although most of my current work is with people and events.


Friday, November 23rd, 2012

We are now in my least favourite time of the year, with the nights drawing in and yesterday it was getting dark in London at 4pm, when I decided to come home. I actually quite like working in the dark or in twilight, but I hadn’t really got anything to do as the protest I turned up to photograph had failed to materialise at the time set for it. But this early darkness I find depressing, and wish we stayed all the year on our ‘Summer Time’. Things were of course better in Paris, where they enjoy around an hour more light in the evenings.

One of the things I always forget when the clocks go back or forward is to change the time setting on my cameras. This year at least it had the advantage that the times on my pictures taken in Paris had the correct local time, but those taken in the two weeks before I went and the day or two after I came back are an hour out.

Although the key clocks in my home all adjust themselves automatically, my cameras don’t, although at least it is only a matter of going into the Settings menu, selecting ‘World Time’ and – in this case – turning ‘Summer Time’ to off. Which I’ve just done.

But time-keeping is a rather weak point on the Nikons. I don’t think there is any simple way to synchronise the time between two camera bodies, and its tricky to get them right to the nearest second either with each other or with the time signal. For me it’s trying to keep the two bodies in synch which is the larger headache, and although I set them more or less spot on a few months ago, the D700 and D800E are now over a minute apart, so when I’m working with both and look at the pictures “in date order” they often are not quite so, and it can be a pain. I don’t really understand why this should be, as I’m sure the chips inside the cameras are capable of much more accurate time-keeping. And it would be nice to be able to easily connect up the two bodies in some way to synchronise them to a fraction of a second.

To save battery power I usually have the menu display set to automatically turn off after a short period, so to synchronise the two bodies I first need to set that to a longer value. Then you have to remember that the time stops when you are changing the date time setting. So I start by going into ‘Date and Time’ and logging on to which despite transmission delays will give me the time accurately enough for my purposes – and anywhere around the world. I set the time on the camera a little in advance of the actual time and then press OK when the time on the screen reaches that setting. Repeat the process on the second body and the two are within a second of each other.

Then I put the cameras away, sit a while and remember I’ve forgotten to change back the setting to turn off the menus to save battery power, curse gently and get them out again to finish the process. I’ll do it immediately I’ve posted this.

We have to suffer in darkness until 31 March 2012. While I’m writing this I’m going to put the next few dates to change the clocks into my online diary – you can easily do this for the UK by using the link on this page of the GOV.UK site.

Paris – Wednesday Morning

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

© 2012, Peter Marshall
The park next to Espace Central Dupon

Fortunately I’d been able to pick up one of the Mois de la Photo OFF booklets at the Speos Gallery the previous evening, as this morning although I could log on to the hotel’s wifi it wouldn’t give me Internet access. Linda had also bought a copy of the Paris listing magazines which also had most of the major shows, so we were able to make some plans for the day.

While on line the previous day I’d noticed that this was the last day for one of the shows in the Mois de la Photo, and as it was, like our hotel, in the 18th arrondissement and open from 9am we decided to start there (though a little later in the day.) It would have been a longish walk so we took the Metro, and then sat for a while in the park next door to the lab enjoying the atmosphere (with a sound track of screaming infants playing on the swings) and eating a croissant or two before going in to see the show at the Espace Central Dupon, one of Paris’s best pro labs.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
The statement for the show by Transit at Espace Central Dupon

The show there was by a collective called Transit, celebrating their ten years of existence since they were founded in 2002 by Nanda Gonzague and David Richard – who were later joined by Bastien DefivesAlexandra Frankewitz and finally Alexa Brunet, and the text suggested that such loose collectives as this might be particular to French photography. I wasn’t sure about this, but it was an interesting thought, and some years ago I’d written a couple of pieces about a similar grouping, ‘Tendance Floue‘ (and last year here) which was referred to in the wall text as setting the pattern for such groups.

The show itself had some interesting work, some dealing with issues that I’ve also been involved with such as anti-capitalist protests and staged events, but with a truly annoying lack of captions. After some minutes I discovered a single double-side sheet on a table to the side of the show which had thumbnails and brief captions, and photographed it. Even this was defective, in particular that it didn’t tell you which of the photographers had taken the picture. It would have been rather better to have had captions on the wall next to the pictures as they were essential to appreciating the work. There are pictures that don’t need captions – but these certainly did.

From there the Metro took us to a show where I was confident of being able to pick up the printed brochure about the Mois de la Photo, at the Maison de l’Architecture en Ile-de-France, which was showing Jean-Pierre Porcher‘s ‘Le Corbusier, Une Promenade Picturale‘.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Jean-Pierre Porcher’s Le Corbusier, Une Promenade Picturale at the Maison de l’Architecture en Ile-de-France

The images were large colour semi-abstract works made in some of Le Corbusier’s buildings, and it was possible in some at least to see the connection between the images and the buildings in which they were made, with some recognisable elements. Some were hung on the walls, but most were displayed in frames laid horizontally or at a slight tilt on top of a number of tables in the middle of the space.

The high quality inkjet prints certainly had a powerful presence, and were notable for the purity of their colours, though for me the effects, perhaps produced through multiple exposures and other tricks of photography were somewhat at odds with the clarity and precision of modernist architecture. The colour too in some images perhaps reminded me more of Mondrian than Le Corbusier. Again the captions were separated from the works, which were numbered but apparently displayed in fairly random order, making it a little difficult to find the several images based on the building with which I was most familiar, the Villa Savoye at Poissy, having photographed it myself a few years ago.

And as expected, I was able to pick up a printed copy of the programme for the Mois, an essential document for the rest of my visit. Of course the Mois has a good web site, but the logistics of going to see shows is complicated by dates and is opening days and times. Most smaller galleries only open in the afternoons, and are generally closed on Sundays and Mondays. Most places are closed on Mondays but shows that take place in business premises are generally open from Mondays to Fridays from some time in the morning until around 6pm. Lots of places are open on Saturdays, rather more on Saturday afternoons and rather fewer on Sundays – mainly in the afternoon. I think the well-prepared visitor would set up a spreadsheet or data base and spend several weeks planning their visit, but I use more primitive methods – like going through the booklets about the Mois and scrawling M for morning, SM for Saturday and D for Sunday at the side of appropriate entries. In previous years I’ve downloaded and printed out a PDF version to plan in advance, but this year I’d been too busy.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
After lunch

A second reason for going to the show at the Maison de l’Architecture was that it was on the way to the bistrot where I wanted to eat lunch, somewhere in the 20e, though it gets crowded enough without me giving it a free advert. Another thing I’d forgotten to do before I came to Paris was to check exactly where it was, but fortunately it didn’t take too long to find.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Buttes Chaumont

Afterwards we took a short walk to our favourite Paris park (full or larger screaming kids taking part in some sort of race), looking rather good in Autumn colours, before I decided it was time to make my way to Paris Photo.


Paris Openings – 13 Nov

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Yes, I was really in Paris!

We arrived at our hotel in Paris a little after 4pm, having left home around 5 hours earlier. The first thing we did when we arrived at Paris was to recharge our Navigo cards; rather like an Oyster card in London, but the 7 day fare is only available to cover Monday-Sunday, so we lost out slightly by buying it on a Tuesday. But since it costs roughly half the price of a similar Travelcard in London we weren’t too bothered.

We actually walked to the hotel, which I’d chosen because it was cheap and close both to the Gare du Nord where our Eurostar arrived and to a very useful Metro station. It was in an area I knew well, and one which has a fairly unsavoury reputation, but we’d stayed around there before and it hadn’t been a problem. And the hotel turned out to be reasonably comfortable and very quiet, despite being only a short distance from a couple of main roads and the Metro line.

Having taken my usual 2 minutes to unpack, out came my notebook computer, and after finding the hotel’s wifi password I was able to get online and on to the site for the Mois de Paris Photo OFF to check up on the events that I knew were taking place that evening. Fortunately on this occasion I managed to get a connection, as stupidly although I’d looked up the events a couple of days before I hadn’t noted down the details, and I had no printed documentation.

The Photo-OFF has a great web site, though only one page of it is in English, which tells you what it is: ‘The Mois de la Photo-OFF is organized by Paris Photographique, a non-profit structure specialized in the organisation of fine art exhibitions that showcase the work of emerging and established, independent, contemporary photographers. Organised by photographers for photographers, the aim of our exhibitions is to encourage emerging photographers to exhibit and sell their work‘ and just a little more, including the fact that there is “no other documentation available in English.” But you hardly need it as the rest is pretty obvious, although the translation feature of Chrome came in handy for the statements about the shows. As well as listings of all the 100 shows in the festival with pictures, details and maps it has a great calendar of events day by day, from which it was easy to find the four openings that were taking place that evening. Three of them were in roughly the same direction and we decided to go to these before finding a restaurant for some dinner.

Görkem Ünal‘s Mythologies was showing at the Speos Gallery in rue Jules Vallés in the 11e, opposite the Spéos Photographic Institute where she teaches studio photography. Born in Instabul she spent some time in the USA before settling in Paris ten years ago.

I found her work difficult to relate to, and the text that accompanied it, with sentences such as “Just like mythologies working in silence, the images of Görkem Ünal allow emptiness to exist as energy; energy of anticipation, of a secret foreseen which renders the mystery active” didn’t help me.  Although I found some of the individual images interesting, and there were some links both graphic and in terms of subject matter between some images to create a sequence the photographs for me didn’t become “the mirror of the soul.”  But perhaps I lack the kind of soul necessary for this work. Ünal has a blog on which you can see some more work,  as well as a website.

Our next call was at the Galerie OFR for ‘Insight Paris‘ by Gianluca Tamorri, born in Rome, who came to Paris in 2005 and began this project, self-publishing a limited edition book ‘75003‘ with 48 photographs in 2011. Although I found the show with only 13 images rather disappointing, it looks a lot better on-line on his web site where there are 115 photographs, many of them rather intriguing, taken on his daily walking around the city. I think the prints on the gallery wall were too large and perhaps in most cases lacked the intensity of the smaller on-line versions.  You can also read more about him and the project on his blog – where you will find an interview with him by Kai Berhmann for ‘Top Photography Films’.

OFR in rue Dupetit Thouars in the 3e looks to be a very good photography bookshop as well as a gallery space, but really I just don’t have the room for more books, and would have found it hard to carry them home so I forced myself not to buy one or two that I’d not seen before that looked interesting.

It was then a shortish walk through one of our favourite parts of Paris by the Canal St Martin to the third opening at Galerie B&B in the rue des Récollets, where Elise Prudhomme, one of the gallery managers there, was showing self-portraits examining questions about self-representation and self-awareness which she took in 1992-3. Like the two other photographers whose work I saw tonight she grew up elsewhere and settled in Paris.

Born in Philadelphia in 1970, Prudhomme started working with a medium format camera while studying Art History at Smith College, and she attended the Maine Photographic Workshops in 1991. Perhaps because of her training in the USA, the work in her show Auto-conscience stood out for the quality of the printing – perhaps not as highly regarded in France as in the USA. It also impressed for its coherence, although the question that came to my mind looking at some of the images was not the ‘Who Am I?’ of the photographer’s statement but ‘Where are you?’, with the surroundings sometimes seeming more interesting than the body, with a rather fine bath and more. Perhaps having an architect for a father gave her the fascination with space that some of these images display.

It’s worth clicking on the images on her web site to see the larger views, and I also enjoyed seeing the work ‘Le Jardin‘ and the colour images of Albert Kahn Garden in Boulogne-Billancourt.

Unfortunately I’d rushed out to catch these openings and while on the Metro realised I wasn’t carrying a camera, so there are none of my pictures from these three openings. I hoped I’d left it back at the hotel rather than on a train, and was very relieved to find it was there when we called back to look for it before going out for a meal. So here are a couple of picture taken after that to show we really were in Paris.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Linda on the way back to our hotel after dinner


Photograph as Commodity – Paris 2012

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

I’d hoped to blog from Paris, but it didn’t work out – the WiFi at my hotel spent most of the week failing to connect and really I was just too busy to post anyway. Apart from the last 36 hours or so when I was considerably indisposed following a rather violent disagreement between a curry and my stomach which left me living on sips of water alone, spoiling my plans for a couple of really good meals with a decent amount of alcohol before my journey on Eurostar back to England I had a pretty good time there.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Plenty of space in the hall – mid-afternoon during the first public day

I have to say Paris Photo itself was perhaps a little of a disappointment, even though I had no great expectations. It’s certainly still somewhere where you can see an enormous amount of great photography from the past, including work by most of the real innovators and masters of the medium, but perhaps more than ever this year it showed its bias. It’s an obvious one, in that this is largely a dealer show, and dealers can only show the work that is available for sale. So, for example, a photographer like Atget was almost invisible at Paris Photo, despite his fairly huge output of work, as the great majority of his pictures were either sold by him direct to museums or became a part of museum collections – such as those bought after his death by Berenice Abbott. Other photographers, working before photography dealers and galleries really existed, seldom made more that a half dozen or so copies of any prints, and often their negatives have not survived for later prints to be made, or their estates have not allowed this to be done.

What dominated some of the stalls was work from many relatively minor figures from the post-war years who are still alive (or whose negatives are still available) being promoted because their work is available, whereas relatively little by photographers of much greater interest is still around outside of museum and other collections.

Contemporary work suffers – perhaps as always – from the quest for novelty by both photographers and in particular contemporary galleries. All too often this seems to be a turning against the peculiar link with reality which to me is at the root of interest in our medium. After a few minutes walking around the great hall containing the photo fair I never wanted again to see work in which people had painted on their photographs, punched holes in them, cut them up, processed them deliberately badly and so on. I’ve never thought showing contempt for the photograph a likely way to produce worthwhile results, but there were rather too many photographers  and galleries at Paris Photo who seem to think so.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
There was a lot of good work by Japanese photographers on show – and some of the photographers were there

Despite the 37 new galleries and 91 that had been in previous editions, there did seem to be a dearth of exciting or even interesting new work on show. There was also a surprising lack of work by UK photographers from after the Victorian period, and several of the more interesting London galleries were not here – there were only 8 from London (including one I’d never heard of, and seeing the work they had brought I wasn’t surprised.) I met a friend from one of those missing and was told that their application to show this year had been refused. I was more than surprised given the poor quality of work on some of those who had been given space, and the large spaces allocated to some galleries with apparently fairly limited work to show.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Even during the opening the hall didn’t seem at all crowded

Of course there were highlights for me – some of which I’ll mention in later posts and it was still worth attending, though certainly I’d not go to Paris for Paris Photo alone. If you have any interest in photography Paris in November is a pretty magic place, with around 80 exhibitions in the Mois de la Photo, another 100 or so in the fringe festival, the Photo Off, over 50 in the Saint-Germain-des-Pres Photo Festival, and what seemed to be countless other shows outside of these events, as well as shows of work for the Prix Pictet, the Prix de Photographie Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière – Académie des beauxarts, the Prix Arcimboldo for creation of digital images, the Prix Carmignac Gestion for photojournalism. In six days there, most of which were spent going from show to show, I hardly scratched the surface, although apart from Paris Photo I attended seven openings, went to presentations on seven other shows, went to the Nofound Photo Fair, went into and walked around about 50 exhibitions and probably looked at almost as many through the windows and either decided it wasn’t worth wasting my time, or was unable to go in as they were closed. But there were quite a few areas of Paris I didn’t manage to get to, concentrating my time on the shows I particularly wanted to see and others in the same areas.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Although some of the gallery stalls were quite busy at the opening

This was the second year Paris Photo had been in its new premises at the Grand Palais, and in most respects this was a better venue than the old underground site in the bowels of the Louvre, handy though that was for cafes and shops – and for the very pleasant gardens of the Palais Royal. It was less crowded, got less overheated and I had no problems of claustrophobia – if anything it favoured the opposite. On the downside it seemed less intimate, and certainly I bumped into far fewer people I knew as I made my way round. But perhaps with there being far less representation of living photographers from the UK and central Europe in this year’s event fewer of those I know bothered to make the journey.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Starting young

I’ll write more about Paris Photo and a few of the things that excited me there and elsewhere in Paris in the coming days, and as a part of a ‘Paris Diary‘ that I’ll eventually put up on ‘My London Diary.’


PDF Publishing

Monday, November 12th, 2012

Blurb now offers the choice of selling books as PDF versions, and I’ve now made six of mine available in that format. The obvious advantage is cost, and you can now get any of my books for a fiver (£4.99 to be exact) for the 8×10 volumes and a bit cheaper for the one smaller volume I’ve produced. They really are better bargains than paying the £26.99 plus carriage from Blurb for a printed copy, or even the £25 including carriage that I charge for direct orders to UK addresses.

Although I can’t deny there is something about the physical object, being able to hold it in the hand, leaf through the pages, open it at random etc, if you have a good quality screen the images probably look better on it than in print, and it’s certainly good to be able to see them a little larger, particularly the smaller ones.

As well as the cost of the actual book there are other advantages – virtually immediate delivery and no carriage costs, and also although the cost is much less, I get a far larger proportion of it. Buying the books as PDFs means you are supporting the photographer, while the printed book supports the printers and all the others involved. Blurb of course takes its share in both versions, and I don’t begrudge that as they make it possible and handle the sales.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

1989: 20 photographs  ISBN 9781909363014  PDF £3.99

© 2012, Peter Marshall

Before the Olympics: The Lea Valley 1981-2010 ISBN 9781909363007 PDF  £4.99

© 2012, Peter Marshall

Photo Paris: 1988 ISBN 9781909363021  PDF £4.99

© 2012, Peter Marshall

In Search Of Atget: Paris 1984  ISBN 9781909363045  PDF £4.99

© 2012, Peter Marshall

2006: My London Diary ISBN 9781909363052 PDF £4.99


London’s May Queens.  ISBN 9781909363069  PDF £4.99

If these sell I’ll think about making other volumes available as PDFs and also it gives new opportunities for publishing. With one exception I’ve limited my books so far to 80 pages simply to keep costs down to reasonable levels. It’s sometimes meant that I’ve had to use some pictures rather smaller than I would have wished and publishing as PDF removes most of the cost limitations.  So perhaps some of my future volumes will have more pages.

Of course I don’t need Blurb to produce or sell PDFs. I can make them directly in InDesign (which I can also use to give greater freedom of design with Blurb) and could fairly easily set up a system using PayPal to sell them myself. But Blurb has some advantages and saves me a little hassle, and their charges for PDFs are at the moment reasonable.  It’s useful to be able to produce print copies, and it is these print copies that I’m now currently assigning ISBNs to and depositing with the National Library.