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Paris Photo 2023

By 22nd November 2023December 13th, 2023No Comments

Paris Photo 2023

Hundred Heroines volunteer writer Emma Godfrey Pigott reflects on her experience of Paris Photo 2023, and discusses her highlights from the event.

It was not my first time at Paris Photo, but the vastness of the event still made an impression upon me. Not only is the main fair at the Grand Palais Éphémère crammed full of galleries, artworks, and books, but the complementary exhibitions, book fairs, and openings combine to turn Paris into a photophile’s dream.

Carolyn Drake

Key external exhibitions for me were from heroines Sophie Calle and Julia Margaret Cameron, as well as Carolyn Drake’s fantastic new show at the Henri Cartier Bresson Foundation. Carolyn’s new work ‘Men Untitled’ deals with the possibility of a power reversal, picturing nude men in a stunning collection of portraits. Positioning men as the object of the gaze through collaborative portraiture, Carolyn examines myths of masculinity in American culture and subverts the expectations of the viewer.

Elsewhere in Carolyn’s exhibition, a walled enclave housed self-portrait work that isn’t present in her book. Mounted over pages from a self-improvement book for women, the artist performs some of the book’s ridiculous suggestions, slapping and pinching her body out of shape.

Sophie Calle

Sophie Calle’s work was exquisite, displayed over three floors at the Picasso Museum. The ground floor contextualised her work in its surroundings, showing her close connection to the museum’s collection over the years. Sophie’s writing was displayed over the original artworks, veiling them behind the descriptions that are key to much of her practice.

The first floor showcased her work on sight, blindness, death, and grief, while the second floor was dedicated to her unfinished projects. These each had an introductory panel ‘stamped’ with the reason the project has been aborted, unfinished or is still in progress. The whole show required a lot of reading and attention but, even so, it was worth the time and effort. Lucky visitors may even have found Sophie at home in her exhibition office at the end!

Julia Margaret Cameron

Julia Margaret Cameron shared the Jeu de Paume with Victor Burgin. Burgin was showing a lot of new film work using 3D modelling software, which contrasted substantially with Julia’s classical, delicately lit albumen prints. The show brought together a wide range of her work, showcasing especially her portraits of women and children, with a large part dedicated to her allegorical works.

Digital Art

In the fair itself, there was a new section focusing on digital works, linking art with AI, algorithms, VR, and other new technologies. I had the pleasure of listening to Sofia Crespo and Anna Ridler discuss their collaborative work at the Platforme talk with Kevin Abosch and Charlotte Kent entitled ‘Conceptual Art and Synthetic Photography in the Age of Artificial Intelligence’. I was especially intrigued by their use of material outcomes, photograms, and cyanotypes, for the final version of their data set-generated images.
Also of note in the new digital section was the work of Louisa Clement. With her twisted, impossible bodies, Louisa explores the notion of identity; in works such as ‘Compression’, she uses DNA as a data storage device.

Women and Relationships

To make some sense of the fair, I followed the selection curated by Fiona Rogers for Elles x Paris Photo. This featured work that focused on the experience of being a woman – such as the elegance and horror of Laia Abril’s black and white coat hanger from ‘On Abortion’, on show with at Les Filles du Calvaire; Annegret Soltau’s incredible collage work, where female bodies are pierced by thread and disfigured by alien-like body fragments; and Gabriele Stötzer’s ‘Mummy’, where the body is wrapped like an Egyptian mummy, rendered immobile and inflexible. The latter invoked feelings of being trapped inside something that is at odds with the identity felt by the body’s owner.

Hodar Afshar’s tender portraits of Iranian women braiding each other’s hair filled the booth of Milani Gallery in the Curiosa section, and are shown on this year’s fair poster. This delicate touch was echoed in Graciela Iturbide’s small surrealist portraits at Toluca Fine Art, and in Flor Garduño’s arresting black and white portrait of a woman holding iguanas.

Pixy Liao’s self-portraits also offered a lighter touch, showing the nature of intimate relationships. Her work blended beautifully with that of Lin Zhipeng, who draws out a certain absurdist sensuality of experience; one of Lin’s images shows a young woman in rapture as she touches the end of a banana plant with her tongue.

The Natural World

Shifting from the world of portraiture towards the BMW Art Makers stand was Eva Nielsen’s ‘Insolare’, with its beautiful curation by Marianne Derrien. Printed at large scale on semi-transparent fabric, the fragmented images transported the viewer into a different view of the Camargue. At Fisheye Gallery, the beauty and distress of the natural world was reflected in lanit Illouz’s cloudlike abstractions of saline concretions.

I finished off my time in Paris listening to Poulomi Basu and Chloe Dewe Matthews talk about their work in relation to the new exhibition at the Barbican ‘Re/Sisters: A Lens on Gender and Ecology’. Discussing the role of contemporary ecofeminism, they stressed how this was about relationships to the land and not necessarily focused on climate change.

Poulomi talked about the difference between the scientific, technological view versus the social, cultural one and asked whose voice is being included? I was left with the impression that feminine identity is key to living in a world where everything is in harmony and balance; that women have a great role to play in saving the planet from the destruction that has been wrought upon it.

By Emma Godfrey Pigott

ZANELE MUHOLI, Sazi I, 2022, Gelatin silver print, 70 x 50 cm, Elles x Paris Photo Zanele Muholi. Courtesy of the artist and Yancey Richardson, New York
GRETE STERN, Surreal Composition5, 1948, Vintage gelatin silver contact print, 12 x 8 cm, Elles x Paris Photo ©️ Grete Stern, Julian Sander Gallery, 2023
SHADI GHADIRIAN, Like everyday series, 2008, Photo paper, 50 x 50, Elles x Paris Photo ©️ Silk Road Gallery & The Artist
PIXY LIAO, Find a woman you can rely on, 2018, digital C-print, 100 x 67 cm,Elles x Paris Photo ©️ Courtesy Pixy Liao & Stieglitz19
NAN GOLDIN, Gina at Bruce dinner party, 1991, Cibachrome, 76.2 x 100.7 cm, Elles x Paris Photo ©️ Courtesy Galerie Sophie Scheidecker
ISHIUCHI MIYAKO, “Ishiuchi Miyako Mother’s #39, 2002 C-type print 150 x 100 cm, Signed titled and dated by the artist, Elles x Paris Photo ©️ Ishiuchi Miyako. courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery
JO RACTLIFFE, Klawer, 2023, Digital silver gelatin print, Approx. 80x100cm, Elles x Paris Photo, ©️ Jo Ractliffe. Courtesy of Stevenson, Amsterdam, Cape Town and Johannesburg
LAIA ABRIL, Coat hanger, On Abortion series, 2017, Inkjet pigment print mounted on aluminum, framed with museum glass, 40 x 60 cm, Elles x Paris Photo ©️ Courtesy Galerie The girls of Calvary
HODA AFSHAR, Untitled #11 from Speak the Wind, 2020, Archival pigment print, 91 x 112 cm, Elles x Paris Photo, ©️ Hoda Afshar
GRACIELA ITURBIDE, El rapto, Juchitán, 1986, Period gelatin silver print, 32.5 x 46.8 cm,, Elles x Paris Photo, ©️ Graciela Iturbide, courtesy Toluca Fine Art