Thursday, December 22, 2016

Paris Photo 2016 - some thoughts on showing up!


Without a doubt Paris Photo is the preeminent photography art fair. Anywhere. This years event at the Grand Palais was the fairs 20th incarnation, it followed the disastrous terrorist attacks last year which left 130 people dead and 360 injured and lead to the weekend closure of the fair. There was therefore a lot hanging on the 2016 event.
This year saw the impact of the new Paris Photo director Florence Bourgeois,and new artistic director, Christoph Wiesner, both have given the fair a fresh look with an increased emphasis on quality. In 2016 the number of exhibitors increased to 153 galleries and dealers, plus 30 book publishers. Also, there were exhibitions in the upstairs Grand Palais spaces, one The Pencil of Culture showed ten years of photography acquisitions by Centre Pompidou, another with works from The JP Morgan Chase Art Collection.
Attendance was up 8% from last year with 62,000 people passing through the doors. Overall dealers reported solid if not spectacular sales, in part, that due to Brexit and Trump.

Paris Photo has something for everyone. I suspect there would be as many agendas and priorities as there are attendees. My focus is not so much looking at the work on the walls but connecting with people. Auckland, my base, is isolated, and that's no bad thing. The chance to meet photo friends, and forge new connections, people I'd never meet in NZ, is paramount. And a pleasure. Paris Photo is a magnet, I saw Martin Parr, John Gossage, Paul Graham, Todd Hido, Susan Meiselas, Joel Meyerowitz, Antoine d'Agata, Roger Ballen, Pieter Hugo, Anthony Hernandez, Darius Himes, to name a few, the list goes on.
The photo world is very small and everybody seems to know everybody else. And in the end galleries, publishers, whoever, tend to work with people they know, like and respect.
Then there is the business of luck... a lot happens purely by chance. It's about showing your face (I won't even say work) and surprising opportunities can crop up when you least expect it. I'm often asked what's my over-riding philosophy, relative to my practice. I'm prone to quoting Woody Allen who say that 90% of life is showing up. And it''s true. My advice to any photographer who is determined to expand their practice internationally is to go to Paris Photo and keep going. Every year. Take the long view and if your work is up to it, good things will happen.
Paris Photo 2017 runs 9 to 12 November. Put the dates in your diary now.

As an after thought. If you're into photobooks Paris Photo is photobook heaven. Then there is Polycopies on the boat on the Seine and OffPrint at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. What more is there to say!

More about Paris Photo on their website HERE.

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