Paris Pourquoi? Is there still a reason to go to Photography Fairs?

Speaking about last Paris Photo Fair, at the Grand Palais.

I ragazzi del candiani

Photos by Petra Fantozzi
Words by Martin Sekera

Been there, seen it, done it and I might be done with it.
That is what I say each year while at Paris Photo although for no reason each year I look forward to strolling around the infinite space of the beautiful Grand Palais to see the world’s best galleries show their very best.

That very best has been shown since Paris Photo has started, there are always the perennial Bechers, there are always the freaks of Diane Arbus or Robert Mapplethorp’s blossoms and the other “blossoms”. And do not forget the glorious Andy Warhol’s polaroids. Everywhere you look there are Tillmans to be found somewhere every year and it is not difficult to spot Jurgen Teller’s Vivienne Westwood’s vagina. It is big… a very big print.

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The excitement faints when you have to push your way through all the people hungry to purchase their next living room centre piece or a cool photo for the lobby of a new trendy hotel in town. Then you remember, Paris Photo is not a gallery show or a photography exhibition à la Tate Modern or à la Beaubourg. Why the noise? Why the excitement? It is just an art fair, where rich people make the gallerists happy and the others buy tasteless canvas bags to parade the logo of the great photography fair carrying the name of one of the world’s most visited and dreamed of cities.

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As an art fair Paris Photo perfectly fulfills its purpose and function. And it even tries to educate the public for a costly fee through various talks. This year there was a chance to hear Sophie Calle and Martin Parr.

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If you are fortunate enough to get through the mass of visitors and brave enough to face the money hungry blood-red lipped gallerists seated in their leather chairs there is a lot of beauty to discover. It offers a great chance to peek at photographs which would be hard to see anywhere else, like those of JH Engström, Michael Roy, Boris Mikhailov, Duane Michals and many others.

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It is definitely worth keeping an eye on the fair’s Photobook awards, which present exciting new books from all over the world. This year’s shortlist included Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin – Holy Bible, Mike Epstein’s New York Arbor and the finalist Rosângela Rennó’s self-published A01.

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If you have never been to Paris Photo perhaps go and find out for yourself whether it fits your frame. If you are the adventures type, there are always plenty of interesting photography shows running in parallel with the photography fair. And I am not afraid to say that they are fresher, featuring the new talent we are all thirsty for.

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Next year, I might finally not go and use Poe’s famous… (Paris) Nevermore.

I ragazzi del candiani

I ragazzi del candiani

I ragazzi del candiani

I ragazzi del candiani

I ragazzi del candiani

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