Paris Photo


Last weekend I visited Paris Photo, the annual international fine art photography fair where about 136 galleries show their collections under the high glass-domed ceilings of the Grand Palais, an appropriate setting for great art. After queuing up for 45 minutes before you can enter you’ll see collections varying from photos dating back to the mid-nineteenth centrury to great modern art and everything in between, and this variety is  a feast in itself, but sometimes also a little bit overwhelming. One moment you’re in front of a real Robert Cappa, then a superb Edward Weston, and suddenly you’re blind-sided by photos of Vivienne Westwood as a subject: naked and much more then lifesize, gigantic, huge.... That’s is what makes Paris Photo so great! Although it is so crowded and often difficult to wade through, the food and drinks are good but utterly overpriced and the toilets are dirty, it is a feast for the eye and you get the chance to see the best of it all. It was a perfect weekend to see what’s hot and what’s not, and to figure out the specialties of each gallery. I left inspired, happy and content and met some new favorite photographers or artworks which I’ll introduce to you now.

I really liked the work of Jean-Michel Fauquet who uses very distinct procedures that utilise drawing, painting and sculpture, and which results in photographs similar to engravings and paintings. Just at second glance you realize it is a photo, He creates/sculptures his own subjects to model in his photographs, often strange papier-maché-like subjects which invite the beholder to dream away.

Jean-Michel Fauquet

Other dreams, but more like nightmares, are created by the Chinese photographer Du Zhenjun. He builts  apocaliptic worlds around towers of Babel - the biblical symbol of misunderstanding. The world keeps on building new towers by ‘inhuman’ means like war, turbo capitalism, globalization, and not yet finished, the world at the base of the tower is already tumbling down again. Sacha Goldman, who once curated an exhibition on Du Zhenjuns work said ‘it is horror in all its beauty’ and he is right. One can only fascinated study every detail of the photo untill one feels the horror blow in right in the face and then turn away.

Du Zhenjun, detail

Karen Knorr
More dreamy and more befitting for me is the work of Londen photographer Karen Knorr. Three of her works from the serie Indian Song were shown, a serie in which she focuses on the upper caste culture of the Rajput in India. Karen Knorr observes its rich visual culture, the foundation myths and stories and uses sacred and secular sites to consider caste, femininity and its relationship to the animal world. She so interrogates the cultural heritage and hierarchical caste system of India, as her site states, but to me it is more the ‘blurring of the boundaries between reality and illusion and reinventing the Panchatantra - the Indian fables - for the 21st century’. As you can imagen I do feel some relationship between her and myself as her starting point - the combination of surrounding and animals is similar to mine.

Off course these weren’t the only interesting artists. Adam Jeppesen, Santeri Tuori, Ruud van Empel, Axel Hütte, Vic Muniz, Zhou Hongbin... I can go on and on. So many great works, its difficult to remember all of them. But luckily I have a catalogue and my own bad photographs of the photos to look up the ones I forgot. Somebody called Paris Photo 'an aesthetic challenge', well he’s right, an exhausting fete for body and mind. But next year I’ll take that challenge again.