A number of excellent in-depth reviews have been published on this year’s Paris Photo, including those by Sean O’Hagan and Francis Hodgson. So instead, a personal note here about what I especially enjoyed during my short weekend in the city.
Among displays by 135 exhibitors from 23 countries, I was drawn to the work of many photographers. However particularly of note due to my long-term research interests; Czech born avant-garde photographer Jaromir Funke. A contemporary of the better known Josef Sudek, Funke founded the Czech Photographic Society with Sudek, Adolf Schneeberger, and Ludvik Dvořák in 1924. Taking inspiration from Alfred Stieglitz and his circle, Funke’s modern subjects included an extended series of still lifes of darkroom materials, made between 1924-30. In 1931 he became a professor of photography at the School of Applied Arts in Bratislava, and then in 1935 at the State Graphic Arts School in Prague. He also edited the journal Fotografický obzor (Photographic Horizons). Examples of Funke’s work can be seen online in the first instance at The Met, and his work has been previously exhibited by Howard Greenberg, New York.
This year, Paris Photo’s private collection exhibition was curated by Timothy Prus, founder of the Archive of Modern Conflict. A personal and critically agreed highlight of the fair, the works on display spanned from the early 1850s to the present day, by photographers known and unknown. The themes represented included earth, fire, air, water as well as divinity, astronomy, meteorology, flight and dance, reflecting the remarkable diversity of this archive of some 4 million images. A behind the scenes look at the Archive can be enjoyed in a film and feature published by Source Photographic Review.
Across the road from Paris Photo, a wonderful exhibition at Le Petit Palais; Modernism or Modernity: Photographers From the Circle of Gustave Le Gray. A pioneer of the calotype and dry waxed paper negative, Le Gray’s own career as a photographer and teacher is considered in this exhibition, before his legacy is explored in the work of students including Charles Negre, Henri Le Secq, Adrien Tournachon and his elder brother Felix Nadar.
Some of Tournachon’s best work had long been misattributed to his famous brother, and the exhibition excels at using new research to redress this balance. The exhibition was also a delight in how it revealed in the work of these nineteenth century pioneers, the premises which later became accepted into modern photography. For example, the abandoning of conventional ideas of symmetry, the introduction of abstraction and multiple subjects within a frame, and applying an accepted pictorial tradition to everyday themes and subjects. The exhibition continues until January 6th 2013.
Lastly, my visit to Paris was also a personal one with friends. In recent years I have contributed to forthcoming exhibition Man Ray Portraits, and the occasion of Paris Photo bought a chance to visit places of special significance. Shared above and below, two photographs connected to Man Ray’s life in pre and post war Paris.