Paris Photo

Today was the opening of Paris Photo, an annual event, that just like FIAC and the Biennial, draws the best galleries from across the globe. The nice thing about this art show is that photos are relatively affordable investments on the international art scene, so the crowd is younger and more light-hearted, making for a more fun, relaxed event.

iconic work by Irving Penn

Photography as a fine art is a fairly difficult concept because of the negatives. For every photo taken, there may be only one print made, or 100,000. Unlike bronzes or lithographs, the production is not controlled, a photographer, galleriest, or any one with access to the negatives can make as many prints as s/he likes and still call them originals. Photos may be printed in a variety of sizes, or at a wide range of time periods and some are developed long after the photographer has gone. Which explains the more accessible prices.

Another complication is more intellectual and relates to modern technology. At what point is a photo no longer a photo, but an illustration or a piece of multi-media? And does the fact that an image has been copied a million times into postcards and Hallmark calendars, add to its value, or deplete it? And what about the accessibility of the process? When we look at most art forms, we may say to ourselves, or the person next to us, “I could do that” while it is rarely true. With contemporary photography, the odds are on your side. Finally, is there, or should there be a significant difference in the value of photos shot as fine art and commercial photography?

All this was filtering through my mind as I attended the opening of the show. And then I started looking at the pictures and other thoughts started popping up, thoughts like; Why are photographers so obsessed with boobs? What is the vagina to penis ration at this show 100:1? Which reminded me of the days when I had my own studio and would go to the lab and the men would stand around talking to each other like it was an old boy’s club and I’d have to clear my throat really loudly to get their attention. All this yin energy made me particularly pleased to see the number of women photographers being represented at this year’s event. Girl power to the 9th degree.

This year’s show has been curated by David Lynch. He has visited all the kiosks, putting a small black sign, signed “vu par David Lynch” on his favorite photos, which makes for a fun way to visit the show. He’ll be there this weekend, participating in various conferences, while photographers like Martin Parr (Friday at 18h) and Jane Evelyn Atwood (Saturday at 16h) will be there signing recent books.

As you stroll the aisles you’ll recognize iconic works by masters like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Irving Penn and Annie Leibovitz. I was particularly enthralled with the collections at the East European galleries like the photos at the Asymetra Gallery (A42) from Warsaw or Vintage (B31) from Budapest.

Paris Photo is at the Grand Palais and runs until Nov 18.

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