As the Paris Photo Art Fair has just taken place in the ephemeral Grand Palais from the 10th to the 13th of November 2022, we have decided to highlight a non-exhaustive selection of artists we like.
At the entrance to the exhibition is the work of a photographer we like very much and with whom we have had the chance to work on various projects: Viviane Sassen. The Stevenson Gallery presents works from her latest book Modern Alchemy, produced in collaboration with the Italian philosopher Emanuele Coccia. An encounter that came about during our project for Perrier-Jouët champagnes. Viviane Sassen continues her exploration of the forms of nature, the metamorphosis of things and the relationship between human and non-human in a form of pluralism that combines different media: photography, painting, collage.
In this same gallery, South African photographer Pieter Hugo presents in his book Solus T.1 a series of portraits published in November 2021. Fascinated by the atypical look of some of the babysitters he met before they were snatched up by the fashion industry, Pieter wonders about its codes and its evolutions. In this work, he photographs young people discovered in street casting and translates their vulnerability, their fragility and their idealism into images. One indication: “Simply present yourself”.
At the corner of a stand, another South African photographer caught our attention: David Goldblatt, author of the series entitled On the Mines, first published in 1973. He began his career as a press photographer in 1948 and denounced the government’s apartheid policy. From the 1960s onwards, his work is focused on the daily lives of South Africans, both black and white.
David grew up in Randfontein, a town shaped by a society, culture and economy based on gold mining. In the mid-1960s, the mines began to decline. It was at this point that his documentary work began. The book is divided into three parts: The mining landscape, the work in the mines, portraits of miners. His approach is naturalistic, in a contrasting black and white and a blur of movement that illustrates life in the heart of the machine.
The photographer Alejandro Cartagena, exhibited by the Patricia Conde Gallery, proposes a series of visuals entitled Carpoolers, which bear witness to the changes in the suburbs of Mexico City, both environmentally and demographically. The extent and speed of the city’s expansion has meant that public transport cannot cover such a large area, forcing workers to travel in the back of pick-up trucks to reach the centre. The author raises here both a real ecological nonsense because of the fuel consumption that this practice generates, but a necessity in a process of preservation of the city and its heritage.
The photographer uses a unique, vertical, aerial framing that gives the series a repetitive effect and marks a frequency, highlighting the density of traffic.
The Fifty One Gallery in Antwerp is exhibiting the Belgian photographer Jacques Sonck. In his work Encounters he goes in search of unexpected, ephemeral and sudden encounters of people with eccentric and penetrating personalities. The photographer’s gaze is benevolent and seeks to highlight his subjects, who surprise by their attitudes, postures, behaviour and attire. These 50 black and white portraits are taken in the street or in the studio, with a strong framing that gives all the character of his subjects.
Jacques Sonck was inspired by the anthropological portraits of August Sander and has often been compared to Diane Arbus in the nature of his subject.
Another Belgian photographer, member of the prestigious Magnum agency, with whom we had the chance to work almost 10 years ago: Harry Gruyaert. As a child, his vision of the world was monochrome, flat. During a trip to New York at the end of the 1960s he discovered Pop Art and the power of colour. He understood that light and colour could transform an everyday scene into a magical moment. His inspiration got developed during his numerous trips to Morocco, the United States, Russia, Japan and Belgium. He photographs everyday scenes, landscapes, works on reflections, transparencies, lights, contrasts, colour saturation. His work is fuelled by an instinctive obsession with colours, in the same way as William Eggleston, Saul Leiter or Joel Meyyerowitz. Kodachrome film (discontinued in 2009) is his best ally in his chromatic quest.
Harry Gruyaert says of colour:
“Colour is more physical than black and white, more intellectual and abstract. In front of a black and white photo, we are more interested in the understanding of what is happening between the characters. With colour you have to be immediately affected by the different tones that express a situation.”
“I feel much closer to an American photographic approach than to French humanist photography. (…) To make a photograph is both to seek contact and to refuse it.”
The Carlos Carvalho Gallery presents the young photographer Marguerite Bornhauser. Her photographic work focuses on the details of the world around her, fragments of her daily life, faces, places. Colour is an important facet of her work, but her artistic approach draws its essence from the way she perceives things and the way she expresses them in images. Marguerite uses strong colour intensity and contrast in tight framing close to her subjects.
Simon Baker, director of the MEP, writes :
“The overall effect of Bornhauser’s practice, however, is to remind us of the way in which color can echo, not only from one image to another, but from one place, or one moment in time, to another. Color as subject-matter, or rather, color as a means of producing photographic representations of the real world, becomes a kind of psychological projection into or onto the everyday. In a sense this is why Bornhauser has so much in common with writers like Hammett or painters like Henri Matisse, each of whom were sensitive to color in their own unique and personal way. More in common with pictorial or linguistic abstractions derived or drawn from color, than with other photographers for whom color is simply a technical issue to be resolved and exploited.”
Zanele Muholi is a non-binary South African photographer who defines themself as a visual activist. In 2004, after spending two years at the Market Photo Workshop founded by David Goldblatt, they built them photographic approach around them commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community, which continues to be the target of persecution. In her first book, Faces and Phases, they produced a series of 300 portraits of women following an identical methodology for each of them: bust, full face, three quarters, all at equal distance from the lens, in black and white, without artifice.
The work presented by the Yancey Richardson Gallery is part of the series Somnyama Ngonyama (“Hail to you, black lioness” in Zulu). In this series of self-portraits, Muholi stages themself and uses costumes, props and hairstyles to play with the stereotypes of African womanhood. The result is a series of 96 black and white images of the artist that constitute a manifesto of resistance against injustice and homophobia.
Jamel Shabazz grew up in Brooklyn with a photographer father who passed on his passion. As a child, he was fascinated by the book Black in White America by Leonorad Freed. From the age of 15, he never left his camera. In the 1980s, when he returned from his military service in Germany, New York had changed. Hip Hop culture developed alongside an erosion of society and an increase in crime in an America in the throes of industrial stagnation.
Shabazz uses photography to document the daily lives of his fellow Americans, incorporating respect, honesty and artistry into his shots. He uses 28mm to bring dynamism to certain scenes and 50mm for portraits. His knowledge of the codes of the neighbourhood allows him to be very close to his subjects who trust him, his desire being “to honour and uplift the youth of his community”.
Another part of his work highlights a darker reality by bearing witness to the ravages of the crack epidemic that affected New York in the 1980s through images taken in Riker’s Island prison.
Today, he continues the documentary photography he began in the 1980s by opening the lens on other cultures such as Native Americans, the gay community, war veterans, etc.
“When I started this photographic journey, I focused my lens mainly on my community. As the years progressed and I began to travel, I focused on developing broader and more definitive work. For the most part, my personal approach was engagement, which meant that if I saw someone I wanted to photograph, I would take the time to stop and explain my intention and why I wanted to photograph them (Where I came from, you just couldn’t take a picture of a person and keep them moving, as the results could be very negative). I found it best to simply engage a person and gain their trust first. This was a common practice that I followed for many years.” J.Shabazz
He is now one of the major figures in New York street photography and has helped to create links between communities through his images.
Seydou Keïta is a Malian portrait photographer born in Bamako in 1921. At the age of 14, he taught himself photography with a Kodak Brownie camera given to him by his uncle.
In his studio set up on a family plot of land in Bamako Coura, he get specialized in the art of black and white portraits that he captures with a camera.
His fame quickly spread throughout the country, and even beyond the borders, he became the fashionable photographer.
“Anyone who has not been photographed by Seydou Keïta does not have a photo”.
Young people from Malian high society come to his studio to have their portraits taken in a staging that highlights Western dress styles, attitudes and codes. In a corner of his studio, he leaves accessories (watch, clothes, radio, vespa, etc.) symbolising social success and allowing his subjects to enhance their image in the eyes of the world.
For economic reasons, he only takes one shot per session, and this is done in daylight.
“The photo technique is simple, but what made the difference was that I knew how to find the right position for each one, I never made a mistake” S.Keïta
His work did not go beyond the borders of sub-Saharan Africa until 1991 when the art world discovered these uncredited photographs at the Africa Explores, 20th Century African Art exhibition in New York. It was Jean Pigozzi and André Magnin who brought the artist to light with the help of Malick Sidibé.
Hiroshi Sugimoto is a Japanese photographer and architect born in 1948 whose photographic work began in 1976.
His work, although very varied, is nevertheless guided by a low-key relationship to time, place and representation: the use of long exposures, representations of mathematical formulae, and diaporamas recreating hypothetical historical scenes.
Sugimoto is renowned for his extreme mastery of photographic technique, the use of very large format cameras (4×5 & 8×10) and the quality of his exhibition prints. He only works in black and white.
In the Theatres series begun in 1978, he photographs old American cinemas with an exposure time equal to the duration of the film. The making of these images requires a great mastery of exposure and exposure time. The projector is the only light source in the room. The superimposition of the film images forms a white screen that illuminates the surroundings of the scene by reflection. The result of this work is a series of images that are similar in execution (framing, exposure, conditions) and in the resulting atmosphere, yet unique. Architectural details, screen ornamentation, seats and rows are subtly revealed by the reflected light. The strong, uniform white screen in the centre of the image contrasts with the rest of the scene in subdued lighting.
We end our selection with the young American Leigh Johnson, presented by Chloé, who is a photographer, video artist and poet.
She captures moments, details, emotions. An afternoon at the beach, a landscape, a face, a suspended moment. A collection of sensitive, intimate, poetic images, in a soft and low contrast colourimetry.
“The reason I am a photographer has a lot to do with my inability to accept loss. I take pictures so that I don’t have to say goodbye to anyone or anything.
The titles of his images are phrases with enigmatic dimensions that plunge us further into the artist’s life, his questions, his experiences:
“What a showstopper that ad would read: tidal wave love, 24-hour smile, one ensuite bedroom and a child’s room”
“It made the thought of growing old less frightening”