This year, Paris Photo brought together 147 galleries from 28 countries; 63% of which are foreign, reflecting a strong desire and a need to come together. The 24th edition took place at the Grand Palais Ephémère, an eco-responsible building at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. We’ve selected some works from around the fair.
In 1948, Seydou Keïta opened a portrait studio in which he would capture a Bamako society teetering on the brink of post-colonialism. Whether of individuals or families, a sense of formality pervades each black-and-white photograph, which Keïta would take in a single shot, directing his subjects to hold distinct poses or overtly display props. Despite their staging, each photograph’s careful framework captures personality and specifics of circumstance, at once yielding intimate portraits intended for personal use and examples of Keïta’s mastery of light and composition. Following Mali’s gain of independence in 1960, Keïta was ordered to close his studio and so buried his collection of negatives; their uncovering and dissemination was only arranged several decades later when a French photojournalist met the artist in Mali and connected him with a private collector.
In striking black-and-white photographs, Sebastião Salgado documents marginalised people and majestic landscapes, sometimes uniting them in the same frames. He mixes formal compositional techniques with a sense of documentary rawness; his photographs are both dramatic in scale and granular in focus. Salgado earned a PhD in economics and embraced photography while he was working at the International Coffee Organisation and making frequent trips to Africa. He transitioned to freelance photojournalism and eventually joined the international photo cooperative Magnum, adopting the documentary styles of the organisation’s founders Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Inspired by the likes of Eikoh Hosoe, Eugène Atget, Weegee, and William Klein, photographer Daido Moriyama has made the city his muse. In Tokyo and other cosmopolitan locales, he documents cultural change and urban chaos in an expressive style all his own. Moriyama was a founder of Japan’s Provoke movement; from 1969 to 1970, the group published an avant-garde magazine that artfully documented the dramatic transformation of 1960s post-war Japan. Moriyama, for his part, focused on elements of modernisation, the dissolution of traditional Japanese values, and the American military occupation of the country. Typically, the photographer makes grainy, black-and-white, high-contrast images, which he prints himself. He has largely shot with a small handheld automatic camera, rarely with attention to the viewfinder.
Mark Mahaney’s Polar Night is a passage through a rapidly changing landscape in Alaska’s northernmost town of Utqiagvik. It’s an exploration of prolonged darkness, told through the strange beauty of a snowscape cast in a two month shadow. The unnatural lights that flare in the sun’s absence and the shapes that emerge from the landscape are unexpectedly beautiful in their softness and harshness. It’s hard to see past the heavy gaze of climate change in an arctic town, though Polar Night is a visual poem about endurance, isolation and survival.
Performance, photography and video, together allow the artist to be in the heart of social issues, peculiarly with the relation between cinema and contemporary art. From the beginning, the artist have been sculpting a gallery of figures and spaces by applying the notion of image. With series of photographs Reconstitution (2013) and Les Intruses (2018), the confrontational relations between male and female constitutes the fondamental of a process in the making. Being presented at the gallery in form of video stills and framed in light boxes, the series Les intruses aims at uniting the inhabitants of Barbès around a work on the issue of sharing public space between women and men. During the shooting, the artist reverses the roles and stages a predominantly female occupation of certain sites where usually frequented by men. Between fictions and documentaries, Randa Maroufi works also as a gleaner of images on the Internet. With what she collects, she cultivates the curiosity, observation of her fellow humans, in their most singular dimensions and their daily and digital concerns.
Korean photographer Bae Bien-U is best known for his photographs of pine trees and undulating seaside landscapes. Beginning his career as a painter, he developed a style of photography that emphasised the painterly quality of natural surfaces, like the patterns formed by bark, surface movement on crags and cliffs, and the scattered distribution of stones. Bae’s career has revolved around a search for an unmistakably Korean symbol in its landscape.
Galerie Claire Gastaud
Nils-Udo creates large, site-specific installations that contemplate humanity’s relationship to and impact on nature. His often-ephemeral works are memorialised in dramatic photographs. Since moving from Paris to rural Bavaria in the 1960s, Nils-Udo has engaged with the natural environment, using organic materials to form otherworldly sculptures. He is known for his constructions of nests, including monumental bowls of neatly layered sticks that rise from the ground and fruits nested in mounds of snow. Nils-Udo, who also creates sprawling installations of tree plantings, has brought his fantastical works to more than 40 countries around the world. He is inspired by the particular topologies of each site, whether in Mexico City, New Delhi, or the country of Namibia. His installations serve as reflections on the cycle of life and natural history. Since the 2000s, Nils-Udo has also made paintings that depict softly coloured scenes of natural environments.
Sarah Anne Johnson works with various mediums, focusing on themes of nature and idealism. Her series of photographs, Tree Planting (2002-5), is a collection of images taken while Johnson spent a summer on a reforestation project in northern Canada—documentary photos interspersed with images of small figures staged in the landscape. For her series Artic Wonderland (2010-11), Johnson took photos in the Arctic Circle and altered them using paint, Photoshop, and techniques of embossing and printmaking. “I do this to create a more honest image,” she says. “To show not just what I saw, but how I feel about what I saw.”
Jeff Mermelstein thinks of his photography as a cross between photojournalism and voyeuristic street photography. Mermelstein, who studied biology, makes photographic series that document and classify his subjects. For example, Twirl (2001-09) presents images of women Mermelstin encountered twirling their hair; Run (1995-2009) is a collection of near-portraits featuring strangers as they dash between destinations. With regards to these categorised suites of photographs, Mermelstein explains: “I generally do not have a theme when in the act of photographing. Themes emerge after the photographs begin to accumulate.” His constantly expanding list of influences includes Diane Arbus, William Eggleston, Weegee, and Garry Winogrand.
This works perfectly shows the artist’s ability to see the world as colour, form and composition. Like Henri Cartier-Bresson capturing people at the right moment Couturier seeks the moment and the point of view that will offer him the world as a nearly abstract composition.
All info is extracted from the press releases of the galleries.