OFF to Paris

I’ll shortly be on my way to Paris, travelling of course by Eurostar – the only sensible way to go from London, so it seemed appropriate to write a little about what I’m going for – and the Mois de la Photo-OFF in particular.

© 1988, Peter Marshall

Every two years, November is the Mois De la Photo in Paris, and the Photo-OFF is a parallel fringe festival, which aims – according to the one page in English on their web siteto offer a dynamic selection of emerging photographers exhibited in young galleries and unexpected spaces, like a train station.”

Basically anyone apply to have a show in the OFF, so long as they can find a space in Paris to show their work. It differs in one important way to the East London Photomonth – which this year particularly promoted such places – in that bars, restaurants and cafés are excluded. But any other indoor or outdoor space can be used. In previous years I’ve seen shows hung on railings along a street, in the windows of a community centre on a street (and of course inside such places), in a disused hospital, in a butcher’s shop, on the doors on the landings of a staircase on a high rise block, on station platforms and in various small galleries and other spaces. All the shows have to be free and accesible to the public and in places that can show work in a proper fashion.

I’m not entirely sure what I think about the ban on bars, restuarants and cafés, although some of the least satisfactory venues in shows like Photomonth and the Brighton fringe were in such places, and even when these places were fairly empty they were often very limited and difficult to view. But there are exceptions, such as the superbly appropriate show of pictures from the US by Kit Fordham in JB’s American Diner on Kings Road in Brighton, or my own shows in the Shoreditch Gallery, which is a gallery space in what is really an overspill area for the Juggler café – such as this year’s Paris – New York – London. Would even London’s V&A Museum, which at one time advertised itself as an ace caff with a gallery attached, be allowed?

Once you’ve found a site and arranged your show you can apply  to take part in the festival at a nominal cost, and then have to send in a portfolio to the selection committee. If your show – which has to be open for at least 15 days in November – is one of the total of 101 that can be accepted to take part you then have to pay a further fee of 85 euros. One further rule is that although you can take part if you were included in the previous festivals, you are not allowed to show at the same venue as in 2008, although this does not appear to be strictly applied as I’m intending to visit one listed show by an artist in the same gallery as then.

The festival produces a well-printed program which arranges the shows into different areas, and one aspect I’m sorry to have missed is that each of the 8 or 9 areas of the city has a Saturday afternoon guided walk around all the spaces where you can meet the photographers and gallerists. Each area also has a special night when the galleries are open so you can walk round on your own.

The web site is pretty clear if you have a slight knowledge of French, and you can download the complete programme or if in Paris pick up one of the 10,000 pocket sized printed copies. Or you can make use of the Twitter feed, the Facebook page, your iPhone and Google maps, and there are Flikr pages and videos on Vimeo….

My only problem is knowing which of the 101 shows to see, and how to fit them in with Paris Photo and also the Mois de la Photo, which started in thirty years ago in 1980, though as it only happens every other year I’m not sure if this deserves to be called its 30th anniversary.

© 1988, Peter Marshall

And of course I’ll take a camera and perhaps find times to take a few pictures. It might be nice to revisit some of the places I photographed back in 1988 which appear in my Photo Paris, though the weather forecast isn’t too promising.

© 1988, Peter Marshall

If I get a moment there may even be the occasional short post from me in Paris here, but I suspect I may find I’m just too busy until I get back home and sleep it all off for a day or two. So if you don’t see any new posts for a few days you will know why.

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