Last weekend I had the good fortune to arrive in Paris on the last day Paris Photo 2014. Since it was raining and I’m not a huge fan of Paris as a city (I know, I know….how is that possible?), I could think of no better way to spend the afternoon, even if I was completely unprepared for such a big display of photographic art. Seriously – I probably couldn’t have named one famous photographer 6 months ago, although I may have recognized names if someone mentioned them.
Honestly, words cannot describe the experience. Hanging in the various galleries were over 1,000 originals of the best photographs in the world. Names I recognized like Cartier-Bresson, Josef Koudelka, Walker Evans, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Annie Leibovitz. New to me photographers like Olivia Bee, Katsumi Omori, Nicolas Dehrvillers, and Christopher Thomas (amazing wet-plate work around Paris).
And then there were images that I recognized stylistically from names like Bernd and Hilla Becher, Denis Darzacq, and another artist whose name escapes me – but he took all of these photos of travel in America that just have a certain look. His work was of common stuff, like hotel rooms and street corners, but yet you can tell it’s his work. Even after spending just a few hours at the show, as soon as I saw certain prints I knew what name I expected to see. Three months ago I could have never said said that, so I guess I’m learning something in that photography class (don’t tell Dylan.)
Then there were these huge 4′ x 6′ or larger prints that just had amazing clarity and detail. Knowing the attention to detail it takes to print a crisp 8″ x 10″ gave me a much greater appreciation for some of these giant photos. Of course there were a lot of works that just didn’t speak to me, and some that are very artistic, and some that I marveled at the fact they could even be photos. One artist had photos that looked like industrial landscapes, but upon closer inspections they were recreated miniatures, and he used things like batteries that still had a hint of the printing on them to give away the secret.
Since it was my first visit to a big photo exhibit, I made the decision to enjoy the moment and fight my fatigue of flying the previous night by really being present and enjoying the show. So I didn’t take any pictures of pictures. I briefly considered it, but it just seemed so odd to watch people using their iPhones and DSLR to try to capture someone else’s work. In hindsight, those were probably the pictures to take: pictures of people taking pictures of pictures.
So while I don’t have the images and forget a lot of the names, I do think I came away with a much better feeling of the power of connecting a series of works and also of developing my own style. I know it’s starting to happen a little, because people are starting to know my works during the critiques in class based on how they look. And when I occasionally try something very different, it is noticed as being “unusual” or a “big step” because it is different than my norm. I just need to keep shooting.
If you ever get a chance to go to Paris Photo in either LA or Paris, I’d recommend it. And actually, after going to the show I’m looking forward to visiting some other museums this winter that have photography as part of their collection. I just need to find them first. 🙂