I photograph the venue very time that I visit the annual Paris Photo show at le Grand Palais. The sheer exuberance of the original Art Nouveau design and its execution in cast iron is sublime, competing very effectively with the art below. Here is today’s example, photographed an hour before my time of writing today’s blog.
I found the breadth of vision on display very inspiring. Even traditional genres, such as portraiture, were taken into unexpected directions. Some were “classical”, in the sense of sticking only to the use of lighting, composition and inventive presentations, while others were completely off the charts. Much was run of the mill, of course, or sought to attract interest via sex or morbid interest in the ails and ills of others.
Among the visionaries, one “image” was certainly a representation of a photograph, but the artist had created a three-dimensional array of wires onto which he had painted the image. Viewed from the side, it was a “trompe l’oeuil, invisible until it came into focus front-on. The work was not simply imaginative and skillful; it added an eerie depth and felling to the image that it revealed.
Another image was a beautiful combination of painted glass and video of a waterfall, synchronized down three screens, altogether the height of a wall. The silent shimmering spray was captivating, peaceful and beautiful in its delicate colours and movements. A kind of visual meditation, I thought.
As always, the displays were a mixture of historical gems, such as the original copper plates used to print the Native American portraits of Edward S. Curtis and the work of highly established artists like my recent discovery, Michael Kenna. The absolute highlight for me was a single nature image by Sebastiao Salgadao, which glowed in all its black and white beauty and seemed to be alive and moving. I came dangerously close to refinancing my home for that one.
The Fine Art Printers
It became even clearer to me during this visit than ever before, that many artists owe the ultimate quality and value of their work to the technical and aesthetic skills of their Fine Art printers. This was so striking to me, that I now understand that a real partnership between the image-maker and the image printer could render images beautiful, which, up to now, I might have discarded as unworthy of fine art status. I fully intend from here on to work at achieving much deeper cooperation with the printers of my fine art work.
The Artists’ Representatives
At first sight, the commercial side of the affair is an unedifying circus. That said, I had several conversations with gallery staff, which clearly demonstrated their own appreciation and enjoyment of the work in which I, at least, was interested. The Curtis copper plates, for example, have never been seen outside of the United States. Indeed the vast majority of them never will be, given that the Smithsonian has now acquired them.
So, I was grateful for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to just bask in the metallic glow of these beautiful artifacts. The Gallery owner Bruce Kapson was also so kind as to advise me (and you) that Curtis’ original published work is available to view, on special, but easy to obtain approval, at the New York Public Library. I will be heading straight there during my next visit! In the same vein, I have to thank all these galleries for assembling a cornucopia of pleasure and inspiration for the tens of thousands who will never buy anything, other than their ticket, or a photo book, during the Salon. The excitement that they generate definitely spills over onto the generality of photographic artists, whom they do not represent and from whom they earn nothing.
Lacking a support for the camera, I shot hand-held and chose a speed setting to compensate, making up for the light deficit with a very high ISO.
Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: 24-70mm f2.8G Zoom
Focal Length: 70 mm
Focus Mode: AF-S
Autofocus Area Mode: Single
Shutter Speed: 1/500s
Exposure Mode: Shutter Priority
Exposure Compensation: +0.3 EV
ISO Sensitivity: 3200
Thank you and “good luck!” to all the established and “emerging” photographers exhibiting today. I personally felt very encouraged to plough my own artistic furrow and hope to join them in the not too distant future.
Copyright Paul Grayson 2015