Paris Photo 2012

17 November 2012 § Leave a comment

I made my first trip to Paris Photo this week and unlike most French events (apologies for the generalisation but I’ve been to a few!) this was well organised with efficient and helpful administration for my (late) Press accreditation. 

Now In its 13th year and its second at the Palais, this is an event that has hauled itself up the photo-fair ladder to being must-go European event running only second after APAID in NY in importance worldwide. It has a magnificent location in the historic main hall of the Grand Palais – inaugurated in 1900 for the Universal Exhibition it is an Art Nouveau jewel topped with a vast glazed dome.

After an orderly, if slightly illogical, queuing system for the inevitable first morning rush you enter the grand and airy main hall. Here there are over 150 exhibitors which include most of the big name galleries. There are the photo specialists like Hamiltons, Zander and Camera Work where you will quickly spot most of the big names of the photo world: William Eggleston, Robert Frank, Martin Parr alongside fashion photographers that have somewhat transcended the genre to become accepted in the art world – people like David Bailey and Tim Walker.

I also found it pleasing to spot some galleries more associated with the contemporary art world than photography – Gagosian, David Zwirner and Paradise Row and artists similarly aligned  like Christian Marclay, Thomas Ruff and Gerhard Richter. Magnum and others bring in photojournalism whilst last but not least the burgeoning Art-Book world has its own section and a display of books competing for an annual prize.

The eclectic mix reflects the fact that photography is now almost totally integrated in to the world of contemporary art rather than being the parallel universe that it once was. This fair also has a ‘Vu par’ selection from film-maker David Lynch whose selection is published separately and who appears ‘In conversation’ on Sunday.

I tried to seek out works that represented the less traditional modes of photography and found some excellent work. Hans-Christian Schink at Robert Morat travelled the world to take hour long exposures of the sky. The sun burning a black trace, like a floating wand across the final image, its direction dependent upon the hemisphere and latitude.

At Von Lintel John Chiara works were made by exposing photographic paper directly within varying home made ‘cameras’, some as large as a truck. The resulting images showing flares, anomalies and colour inversions. The results are unusual and disquieting.

At the same stand Marco Breuers works are also unique editions – using heat elements to burn, melt scratch and scar photographic paper. Images, ironically, do not do justice to the textures of the ‘real’ thing.

David Bailey is an ususual name to add to this ground-breaking list. His latest works are photographs taken from TV war documentaries. The blurred, semi-abstract images are striking and follow from his recent – and not very sucessful – anti-war paintings.

Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin cleverly examine politics and ethnography having works at more than one stand. Political 1 (illustrated above) being one of David Lynch‘s selections.

A final personal favourite was in the photo book section Julian Baron’s CENSURA turns the tables on lying and manipulating politicians and bleaches them with over-exposure and flash, denying them the publicity they seek. Currently only available as a photo book.

The only downside of this excellent fair was pathetic catering with a minimal choice of dry baguettes, no espresso coffee, and totally inadequate seating – most people resorting to staircases to take a break. But then again if everything was perfect you wouldn’t know you were in Paris, would you?

Paris Photo runs until 18 November 2012 at Grand Palais. The inaugural Paris Photo LA takes place 25-28 April 2013 in Los Angeles.

david bailey – hitler killed the duck at scream

23 October 2011 § Leave a comment

I have always thought that the notoriously irreverent and enjoyably grumpy photographer David Bailey has always been slightly underestimated. Not that of course he goes unrecognised but that perhaps he is often dismissed as simply a fashion photographer or celebrity snapper. Actually his work has often been groundbreaking with for example his use of excessive contrast and very tight cropping.

I recently visited his studio where, despite being well in to his seventies, he had been up since 6.30 am working in the darkroom (he still does much of his own printing). This despite the fact that by now he should of course be able to hang up his lenses for good and have a very comfortable living from his back catalogue. Still working every day – “otherwise I’d get bored stiff” – his latest work has not actually involved photography but painting.

Paint is of course a departure from his usual work but, no doubt encouraged by his good mate Damien Hirst, he fancied trying his hand at something different. And different it certainly is. The exhibition is called Hitler killed the Duck – a title derived from the bombing of his local cinema when he was a child. The works in the show are split between expressionistic – if one could call it that – canvases that variously feature Mickey Mouse, warplanes, Donald Duck and Hitler with daubed graffiti such as 1942 WAS A BAD YEAR, WANTED or WOT, and inspired by these childhood experiences. The remainder take one of his iconic photographs as a starting point for some overpainting.

The former do not really work and some might be unkind and say that perhaps he should not have bothered – but hey, its David Bailey, if he wants to try it why not? In any case am sure he would say something like ‘f*** ’em – who cares?’ As for the photographic-based pieces they are actually work very well, perhaps due to the sthrength of the original images.

In Red Warhol, Jack Nicholson and Noel Gallagher the original photographs featuring the thoughtful, bad and mad respectively are tightly cropped with the black and white or sepia images still visible through or inside the painted background.

It is not great art – but here is one of Britains iconic photographers having some fun and what the the hell, why not take a look.

David Bailey Hitler Killed the Duck is on at Scream until the 12 November 2011

david bailey at pangolin

11 October 2010 § Leave a comment

David Bailey‘s (or Bailey as he is known to everyone) first ever sculpture exhibition is currently showing at the Pangolin gallery, Kings Cross. Renowned for his iconic photography, here Bailey strips away conventional beauty, and instead focuses on that which lies beneath the beautiful profile: the skull.

As Bailey insists ‘I’m not saying I’m a sculptor, I just make images. I don’t take photographs, I make them. And now I’m making something else.’ This something else will surprise many. There are plenty of skulls including a miniature silver skull (a tiny grinning memento mori) perched on a chair that looks like it has come straight from the front row of London Fashion Week, aptly named Comfortable Skull. Or how about Shoe Tongue, a bronze skull with a boot-leather tongue escaping from its mouth. The latter was inspired by an old shoe which he found on a burnt-out fire in Dartmoor where he also has a second home. As Bailey adds ‘Everything in my life is found, whether it’s something that I find in the person I’m taking a picture of or if I’m taking a picture of some farmer’s old boot that I find on a bonfire.’

When I asked Bailey which was his favourite piece he immediately pointed to the Dead Andy bronze. A striking and humorous depiction of Bailey’s old friend Andy Warhol (he has even nailed the hair). David Bailey’s Andy Warhol documentary was released in 1973 and was banned for being ‘offensive’, the ban was later overturned. It is classed by many as the definitive Warhol documentary.

This exhibition is not just about sculpture; there are new photographs too.  These also revolve around the skull theme: a giraffe, dolphin and gorilla for example. As Bailey puts it ‘The skull is nature’s sculpture.’

Pangolin Gallery is one of London’s few galleries purely dedicated to exhibiting sculpture. It’s close affiliation with Europe’s largest foundry, Pangolin Editions in the heart of the beautiful Cotswold countryside, means that Pangolin London is able to showcase the most advanced sculpture-making.

Bailey met Rungwe Kingson and Claude Koenig – Directors of Pangolin Editions and Pangolin London – at Damien Hirst’s House in Mexico and it was here that they began discussions regarding a collaboration. Bailey’s love of Picasso, African and Oceanic culture is evident throughout. He adores Picasso and there are similarities between the two; both sharing  a relentless creativity, a determination to try something new and of course an  appreciation of beautiful women.

David Bailey: Sculpture & Photographs runs until 16 October.

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