Provoke at Le Bal

If you are going to Paris in the near future – perhaps a trip before we start having to pay for a visa after Brexit – a visit to Le Bal should be on your agenda. The show Provoke, Entre contestation et performance: La photographie au japon 1960-1975 continues until  December 11, 2016 at the gallery at 6 Impasse de la Défense.

You can read more about the show on L’Oeil de la photographie as I did – and there are links on that page to several posts about this and related events such as Daido Moriyama’s installation Scandalous at Gare de l’-Est (aka Paris Est), just a few yards from where – if you are coming from London – the Eurostar will deposit you at Gare du Nord. Le Bal is a short walk from Métro Place de Clichy, and entrance costs 6€ with various concessions – you might get in free as a journalist if you have a UK press card. But be warned that like many things in Paris it’s closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

I’ve written a couple of things here about Provoke and the other photographers included in the show earlier this year at at Fotomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland  and also about the brick of a book of the same name in the post . I’ve also been expanding my views a little for a lecture later this year, which will doubtless feature here at some time, though I’ve still around a month to finish it.  My presentation will start with a selective overview of the history of photographing protest from the daguerreotype era to the 1960s and then look at some of my own contributions to the genre.

The latter is proving harder to write, not least because of the wide range and large number of events I’ve covered, both those in My London Diary and in the years BD – before digital. It’s so much easier to go through digital images than to look through those many files of negatives and contact sheets and boxes of old 10x8s.

Apart from a few exhibition prints, over which I will have laboured long, with many test strips and reprints to get the dodging and burning and other darkroom tricks right, prints to send off to the library or agency were largely routine. The enlarger I used had a meter which generally got the exposure about right, and experience of working in the darkroom meant one was able to spot when negatives really needed some waving of the hands to dodge or a little extra through a gap between them.

Normally you could get it right first time,  perhaps giving some prints a little longer in the developer than others. In theory I made a print for myself too, but when time or cash was short I often didn’t, so only have the few where things were far enough out to force a reprint but not so pathetic as to end up in the bin.

Probably I should have put more of those I’ve kept in the bin too – and certainly other better-known photographers would have been advised to do so in the past. Too often going around the large events like Photo Paris you see prints which are clearly second-rate being sold at high prices as ‘vintage prints’, and sometimes you feel that dealers have been raiding the photographer’s rubbish bin. One day I mean to go through all those old boxes of prints and have a clear-out, just in the unlikely chance I should find some fame after my own final career move.

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