Paris Photos Day 2

Paris rises every morning a divided city, with workers rushing around in the early hours emptying rubbish bins and other useful work but many shops and other businesses not opening until 11am, Paris Photo (PP) among them.

Fortunately my hotel room was pretty quiet and I slept every morning until 8am or later, but that still meant that after showering and having breakfast I had some free time before I could resume work at the Carrousel du Louvre, and I had time to wander a little and take some pictures.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

So on Thursday morning I took a leisurely walk that took me across the 9e and 10e and through some of my favourite Paris arcades, leading me to the Jardin du Palais Royal and then on to PP, arriving just in time to walk past the long queue building up for tickets and into the exhibition halls just as it opened. There are definite advantages to press accreditation, and not just the cost, though a VIP pass would be even better!

© 2010, Peter Marshall

It was also a useful walk for Linda, who called in at a hardware store on the rue Cadet and found exactly the rotary grater she had been searching for months without success in England. In France they still cook rather than stick prepared meals in the microwave.

In PP, my immediate destination was the toilets, where I found a man taking a picture of himself in the mirrors, and having photographed him I took a picture of myself too – on My London Diary later.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

Then it was down to the real business, and I started on the central block of stands in the Salle le Notre. All of the galleries had some work of interest, but one that stood out for me was Bruce Silverstein, with a fine set of pictures by Robert Doisneau. I was specially pleased to see a set of four images from a taken from inside the gallery with a painting of a nude woman displaying her ample derrière, the best-known of which, usually called ‘Sidelong glance‘ shows a man and wife, she talking animatedly about the picture in front of her which we can’t see while his attention is clearly drawn to the nude. My favourite of the others was of a gendarme pretending not to be looking at those curves; it’s an image I have seen before, but it was good to see them again together, along with a good number – perhaps 20 prints in all of other images by the photographer, a mixture of familiar favourites and some I don’t think I had seen before.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

With so much big bad colour on show at some of the stands (there does seem to be something of a rule that the bigger pictures are the more likely they are to  be hideous) it was a delight to come across the little precise observations of Jessica Backhaus at the Robert Morat gallery from Hamburg. Backhaus grew up in Berlin, studied photography in Paris where she made friends with Gisèle Freund, and now lives in New York. Her series “What still remains” which she started in 2006 “explores the question why forgotten or abandoned things turn up in certain places and how they seem to develop a life of their own.” These  prints, roughly 11×14″ are obviously both taken and printed with a great deal of care and feeling and have an intimacy with the things and places they depict. The colour is natural, with normal saturation (a fairly rare thing in PP) and the printing just sings a true and beautiful tone.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
An ingenious solution by Photoport from Bratislava about what to do with your packing case

Magnum‘s display I found disappointing. Not that there were not some fine images – for example by Bruce Davidson – but that it was just too bitty, and some pictures, both old and new work, were I felt not well printed.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
La France – Depardon

Perhaps the most interesting pictures for me were two of the three prints by Raymond Depardon, from his La France (you can see 5 minute film in which he talks in French about the project as the images slide slowly by on the BnF web site.)

I stopped off at the Purdy Hicks stand to take another look at the two large images by Tom Hunter from his Unheralded Stories. One that I was familiar with was Anchor and Hope (2009) taken on Walthamstow marshes looking across the Lea Navigation towards that Fullers house in Upper Clapton, and based on one of my least favourite paintings, the 1948  Christina’s World by US painter Andrew Wyeth, while The Death of Coltelli (2009,) also on show, is based on a detail from a painting by Delacroix, The Death of Sardanapalus, hanging in the Louvre just a few yards away. Hunter has chosen just one figure from the chaos in the painting, the king’s mistress, arms stretched out apparently unconscious at the feet of the king who sits up on his bed apparently unmoved by murders and other violent activity around him as the massacre he ordered of his women, slaves and horses takes place before he by his own choice is to be burnt to death on a sacrificial pyre.

Hunter’s picture, charming though it is, takes the pose of the woman and little else, setting her in a quiet domestic bedroom, looked down on by a photographic portrait of an elderly woman, a plaster religious statue, two framed religious images and a few other knick-nacks. Her eyes are open and she looks fairly unconcerned in what is a mildly erotic image with some rich colour.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Ellen Kooi

Minutes later in the Salle Delorme, I found myself standing in front of another photographic reprise of Christina’s World, this time on the Beaumontpublic stand and by Dutch photographer Ellen Kooi. Although I like much of Kooi’s work – and she is a photographer who like me has a great interest in panoramas – I found her take on Wyeth less interesting (and I think there is another version on her own site.) Of course that could be because of my particular interest in the Lea, having just produced a book about it. And although I like Hunter’s image, I couldn’t for long live with grass that was such an intense blue-green – really on Walthamstow Marsh it never looks like that.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
LumenGallery, Budapest

I haven’t mentioned so far the particular focus of this year’s PP on photography from Central Europe. Some of it I’ll write about in a later post on a book launch I attended the following day, and other aspects were already so familiar to me – the work of people like Sudek, Funke, Rossler and the great Hungarian exodus which took Kertesz, Brassai, Moholy-Nagy and others west and others are already so familiar that the show told me nothing new. Others I felt were very poorly represented here, including a number I’ve met and written about such as Antanas Sutkus from Lithuania.

There were three of the galleries exhibiting as a part of ‘Statement’ on Central Europe that particularly interest me. One was Galeria ZPAF from Krakow (The Association of Polish Art Photographers, web site in Polish), the  which I’ll write about when I’ve had time to have a good look at the CD they gave me. A second was Lumen Gallery from Budapest, and you can read about their show at Paris Photo on their site, but I’ll mention them again in a post about the book launch there on Friday, and the third was another Hungarian gallery, Zsofia Faur. The work that most impressed me on their stand was by Anna Fabricius, on her web site as ‘Tigress of Housekeeping.’ There was only room on the stand for 8 of the nine pictures from this series which were displayed as large colour prints. Although these were fine, I still felt it looked better and was better suited to the presentation in the book of her work.

Finally for this post, I’d like to mention my favourite print of all those I saw at Paris Photo, on the Johannes Faber stand. It was a pigment print made by Josef Sudek, Three glasses (1951) unfortunately not shown on their web site. One tall glass in the centre of the image is half full of a dark beer and there are empty foam-stained smaller glasses in front and behind. It is a dark image, one that I don’t think I’ve seen before and that doesn’t seem to be anywhere on the web. If I had a spare 48,000 Euros I might have considered buying it. There were other Sudek images in the show – including two more on this stand, but compared to this they were ordinary (and some rather poor, probably proof prints.) While PP was taking place, Sotheby’s were running a photography auction in Paris, where one Sudek print sold for 300,750 Euros (the estimate was 18-23,000) and another for 228,750 (estimate 14-18,000) and this was in my opinion a rather better image. So it could have been a bargain.

But by this time my feet were getting tired and it was time to meet Linda for a rather late lunch in a cafe near Filles de Calvaire, from where I’ll take up my Paris wanderings in another post.

More pictures now on My London Diary.

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