I’ve been back hone from Paris Photo for about a week and have had chance to do an initial process/assessment of my images. I’ve also written a short piece for the WeAreOCA Blog - 'Un grand marche au Grand Palais'. The latter was illustrated with a few images, but wasn’t an attempt to rehearse the assignment.
It is worth recording here what happened on the visit to Paris and specifically how I ended up approaching the making of my photos for the assignment. I took a risk in relying on an entirely new camera with which I had only done some rudimentary familiarisation. Attendance at two gallery exhibitions before the main event gave me chance for a bit of a dry run.
Above is a selection from a visit to 'Le Bal'Gallery in Montmartre, where images from two pieces of work by Paul Graham were on show. I also went to 'Jeu de Paume', where there was a Manuel Alvares Bravo retrospective, but photography was prohibited, and to the ‘Maison Européenne de la Photographie’, which had an exhibition entitled ‘Photography in France 1950-2000’. It was a slight misnomer, since there were images by French photographers taken outside France and images by non-French photographers taken in France, but that aside, it was a big and very interesting survey of most strands of photography in the second half of the 20th century. I was also able to give the camera a real ‘low light’ run since we visited in the evening.
Of course, I only had the opportunity to review these images in the camera at the time, and no chance to actually process them. So there was still an element of risk.
My intention all along was to visit the main Paris Photo event on two separate days – the first to actually ‘take in’ the event and to assess my opportunities and options for the photo essay; and the second to ‘work’ the event, photographically, on my own, for a few hours, creating the main body of images for the assignment. I did, naturally, take some photographs on the first day, but broadly speaking, I followed this original plan. (I did also consider the possibility that the assignment would cover a range of the events going on across Paris, but came to the conclusion that I would be best to focus on the main event itself.)
What did emerge, when I reflected on my impressions from the first day, was a definite direction that I wanted to go with the assignment. I would photograph Paris Photo for what it is – a market. On the evening of that first day, I jotted down a series of bullet points that defined how I saw the event after the visit. I wrote that Paris Photo is:
· A top-end art market;
· A ‘grand’ event at the Grand Palais;
· Somewhat divorced from reality;
· ‘tiered’ in its own right;
· More about money than art;
· About the ‘great and the good’;
· A coming together;
· A public display by dealers;
· About ‘old’ pictures;
· About the ‘established’;
· A reluctant performance by some of the artists;
· A positive statement of photography’s presence;
· Something of a high-class car boot sale;
· Comforting and reassuring for those already ‘there’.
Some of those might have been a little overstated after a long day and a few glasses of wine, but they provided a kind of script for my work the next day. I had also by then decided to forget about the notion of producing a slideshow as well as the main photo essay.
So as not to make this too long a post, I’m going to continue the Progress Report in a separate blog entry, to follow.