Sun, 24 Nov 2002

Photo fans spoiled with two major shows

Kunang Helmi-Picard, Contributor, Paris

This month, photo lovers were able to choose from 70 photographic exhibits spread throughout Paris, which hosted two major exhibitions: the Month of Photography and the Paris Photo Fair. The two shows have been attracting much international attention to the French capital.

Founder of the month-long event and director of the Maison Europeene de la Photographie, Jean-Luc Monterosso, delegated a different artistic consultant to handle each of the three themes: Women of images, fashion and new photography in developing countries. The consultants are Elvan Zabunyan, Alice Morgaine and Caroline Bourgeois.

Featured under the Women of Images theme was Austrian Inge Morath, one of the first female photojournalists and who recently passed away, was represented by her visions of New York at the Galerie Esther Woerdehoff.

Fashion was represented by a broad spectrum of modern and contemporary photo artists such as Paolo Reversi at Galerie Camera Obscura or Sarah Moon and Nick Knight at the Maison de la Photographie.

Curator Jane Reed from San Francisco visited the Paris Photo Fair held from Nov. 14 to Nov. 17 at the Carroussel du Louvre, and commented that, "The huge selection of photos reflect the amazing increase in interest in photography in Europe during the past five years. The images were interesting, but I have yet to be really surprised by an unusual photo at the fair."

French photography critic Michel Guerrin of Le Monde was of the same opinion, that the sixth run of the Paris Photo Fair displayed images of all possible styles spread throughout the exhibition stands, but very few of contemporary stars.

"At this fair, it takes time to find what makes one happy among those thousands of images," he said.

The fair was graced by a retrospective of classical American photographer Ansel Adams sponsored by Polaroid, and the Netherlands was invited to present their young photographic talent.

Among the wide variety of photographs at Paris Photo, there was a booth of London-based Ken and Jenny Jacobson with their comprehensive selection of vintage prints of Asia, including the 19th-century images of Java, many of them by Woodbury and Page.

Ken Jacobson admitted to having sold 10 photos of Balinese dancers taken by Tilly Weissenborn to an anonymous collector. The couple wondered why there was so little interest in Indonesia, known for its rich photographic heritage. Vintage prints from Asia are rather rare and are mainly found in Europe and America. Here, they range in price from US$500 to $1,500.

Although not a part of the Month of Photography, 12 works of Indonesia by renowned war photographer James Nachtwey are among a total of 150 prints displayed at the Bibliotheque Nationale. His work is compelling and not for the faint-hearted, as the captured images are never those depicting soothing aspects of humanity.

In terms of sales, Laurie Hurwitz-Attias of Paris Photo Magazine said, "The market seems to have leveled off, especially with the ongoing international economic malaise."

It does seem true that collectors are becoming more selective. Famous New York gallery owner Howard Greenberg, who exhibited a wonderful print by Paul Strand marked at 50,000 Euros said that, "Business was fast at first, then slowed down, but personally I am happy as I was able to conclude a big deal successfully even though it was not at the fair. Nevertheless, it was here in Paris."

The shows in Paris can be enjoyed merely for the price of the entry ticket. It would do well for the first-time photo collector to keep in mind, however, that prices of prints may be subject to wild swings in market value as all other works of art. It is always better to collect photos that please oneself rather than trying to speculate on future increases in the value of a print.

Paris is increasingly becoming important in terms of the international photography market. Six auctions also took place during the Paris Photo Fair with an entire auction devoted to photojournalism, with prints by Henri Cartier-Bresson and Bruno Barbey included in the selection, and international auction house Christie's even had three auctions.

Renowned photography agency Magnum was again present at the fair with their own booth, while Parisian photo agency VU followed their example in selling prints by their photographers. Noteworthy was the presence of Japanese photo galleries due to their limited number of participation in the event in the previous five years. It was also a good business opportunity for them.

Meanwhile, a remarkable show could be seen at the Musee Galliera for Fashion: Henry Clark, who shot for the various international editions of Vogue magazine, had left his entire collection of negatives and prints to this French institution.

Jimmy Fox, former photo editor at Magnum, expressed his delight and said, "These are truly elegant photographs of somebody who knew what he was doing and who presented classical images where one can actually enjoy looking at the garments and beautiful models without shuddering at special effects."

The Month of Photography in Paris has inspired dozens of similar events throughout the world, from Houston to Bangkok. It has been reported that Geneva, Switzerland, may even open its first month of photography next year, dedicated to the theme of labor.