2011 Paris Photo

At a talk at the Frieze Art Fair in London in October artists Broomberg and Chanarin and Taryn Simon talked about the relationship between photojournalism and art photography. In the Q&A that followed, someone in the audience asked why there were no strictly-photography galleries at the fair. The question seemed both unanswerable and, to a large extent, irrelevant. Though the talk itself circled an issue about photographic practices, the ‘is photography art’ debate is emphatically over, and in the glittering hubbub of Frieze, medium specificity of any sort was a rare find in the bounds of the white walled-booths.

photo: Sara Knelman

The uniformity of medium at Paris Photo a few weeks later made for, by comparison, a serene environment, light and airy without the weight and clutter of sculpture, quiet in comparison to all the sparkly attention-demanding work that dominated Frieze, and cloaked by the elegantly soaring ceilings of the Grand Palais, where over a hundred photography galleries from around the world set up shop for a few days in November. Even still, the volume of work was overwhelming, and presented the same challenge of how to extract and engage with individual works amidst the disorienting repetition of aisles of white cubes.

Ostensibly a fair for historical and contemporary photography, recent work dominated the scene. New Director Julien Frydman, formerly head of Magnum in Paris, also included spotlight spaces dedicated to recent institutional acquisitions, private collections, and African photography. In addition to the encyclopedic catalogue, an expansive book Mutations: Perspectives on Photography, was also published, with an impressive roster of contributors: Simon Baker, Victor Burgin, Jean-Francois Chevrier, Regis Durand, Roxanna Marcoci, Adrian Rifkin, Allan Sekula – to name a few.

There were a lot of pictures to see. Here are a few that struck me, while I wended my way through. Many speak to some larger trends in photo practices: a return to traditional (analogue) processes; the integration of photography with painting in various ways; appropriating appropriated imagery; idiosyncratic views of everyday objects. These emphases on object-ness, uniqueness, insider references and the familiar accumulation of modern life stand in opposition to the kind of documentary, politically-engaged work that is making a resurgence, and which was less present here – though this is not surprising given the commercial priorities of the event.

One image from an installation of Matthias Olmeta’s Ambrotypes at galerie du jour agnès b.

Matthias Olmeta, Louis, 2011, Ambrotype, 33x31 cm, unique, courtesy of galerie du jour agnes b.

Also on view here, a selection of works by Malian portrait photographer Seydou Keita.

Seydou Keïta, untitled, 1952 to 1955, gelatin silver print, 1998, 180x127 cm, courtesy galerie du jour agnes b.

Double exposures layer portraits and paint splatter in work by Thibault Hazelzet at Christophe Gaillard Gallery.

Thibault Hazelzet, Soldat, 2011, C-Print sur ilfoflex monté sous diasec, 200 x 123 cm, courtesy of Galerie Christophe Gaillard.

Cindy Sherman’s film stills have been obsessively revisited by Spanish artist José Ramón Amondarain. A few of his enlarged photographs of painted copies on view at Max Estrella.

Jose Ramon Amondarain, Untitled Film Still no. 21, courtesy of Galeria Max Estrella.

Jose Ramon Amondarain, Untitled Film Still no. 6, courtesy of Galeria Max Estrella.

Georges Rousse’s surreal, trompe-l’oeil architectural interventions at Galerie RX.

Georges Rousse, Heidelberg, 2011, lambda print, 125x160 cm, courtesy of Galerie RX

Georges Rousse, Musée de l’Homme, 2011, lambda print, 125 x 160 cm, courtesy of Galerie RX.

Israeli artist Ilit Azoulay’s expansive piece The Keys archives the lost and found in an obsessively curated and digitally stitched mural-sized work on view at Andrea Meislin Gallery – a work that has been explored on this site before.

Ilit Azoulay, The Keys, 2010, archival pigment print on paper, 59 x 145.5 inches (150 x 370 cm), edition of 3, plus 2 AP, courtesy of Andrea Meislin Gallery, New York.

LED lights from household electronics flare and bleed in work by German photographer Frank Mädler at Corkin Gallery.

Frank Mädler, Achtachtunddreißig, series: Shine, 2011, analogue c-print, Diasec, 24 1/2 x 43 1/4 in. (62.23 x 109.86 cm), Ed. 8, courtesy of Corkin Gallery.

Frank Mädler, Power, series: Shine, 2011, analogue c-print, Diasec, 25 x 32 in. (63.5 x 81.28 cm), Ed. 8, courtesy of Corkin Gallery.