Paris Photo 2010

When I wrote about photography for, one of the things I was keen to promote was photography that was taking place outside the charmed circle which was largely defined by US dealers, US galleries and US academics, with a little help from their Western European colleagues.

Of course there were photographers from outside that area who were recognised, but they were largely restricted to a few whose work had somehow been discovered in the USA and rewarded with major exhibitions there, for example the great Czech photographer Josef Sudek.  His work was brought to New York by Sonja Bullaty.  At the age of 22 she had escaped from a death march after four years imprisoned by the Nazis  in the Lodz Ghetto, Auschwitz and Gross-Rosen concentration camps, and hid until liberation when she was able to return to Prague and became ‘apprentice-martyr’ to Sudek. Two years later distant relatives discovered she had survived and sent her the money to go and live with them in New York, where she worked as a photographer (along with her husband, New Yorker Angelo Lomeo) for the rest of her life. It was her work and particularly her book of pictures by Sudek, published in 1978 that brought his work to the attention of the US-based photography world – and to me.

There were many others too – including many from the USA – who brought pictures from photographers around the world to exhibitions and wrote about their work, and of course many photographers from around the world made their way to America and to New York – in many respects the world capital of photography –  in particular. But when I started writing a professional column in 1999 it was still true that photography was very much dominated by US photographers and US opinions. There had even been some little discussion about whether as a non-US citizen who didn’t live in New York I was actually a suitable person to write about the medium (and not being American was one of a number of reasons why I finally lost the job, though it was more important that I insisted on taking photography seriously.)

I tried to do a little to educate the photographic public (and although I had many readers around the world it was mainly an American public) that there had been and was photography outside the states of the union and outside the at times narrow definitions largely set down by the Museum of Modern Art. One area of the site I set up was devoted to ‘World Photography’ and at first I concentrated on Central and South America, treating it country by country, starting with Argentina (by the time I was sacked I had got as far as four features on Mexican photography in a total of 16 from that area, 6 from Africa, 13 from Asia, 2 from Australasia, 38 from Europe as well as 23 from North America.)

Most of those from Europe were from England and France, but I had written about photographers from Hungary, Albania, Lithuania, Russia and Finland, and was preparing to write more about photography in Central and Eastern Europe when my contract was terminated. But while I don’t pretend my work had any great influence,  it did I think represent a current of opinion whose time had come and others obviously shared some at least of my ideas, and photography has been opening its borders and becoming more international in the past decade.

I’m particularly pleased to see that this year’s Paris Photo has a special emphasis on photography from Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic. Whether or not you are going to Paris this year you can see some of this work on line, and Lens Culture has  a preview of more than 300 images in a high-resolution slide-show.

Not all of the pictures are from Europe; the second image in the slide show is by one of my favourite Japanese photographers, Issei Suda. One of his books was the first book of Japanese photography I ever bought, many years ago.  The slide show, like Paris Photo, is an incredible mixture with work to suit every taste (or lack of it) with quite a few images that seem to me totally pointless, but also much to delight.

See Also

Meet Me in Paris?
November in Paris & Lensculture fotofest

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