Paris Photo 2

I've been back from Paris a week and am now going to finish my coverage of Paris Photo, the yearly festival of art photography that shows work from close to 200 galleries from all over the world.

This year the show had a large book section and an active schedule of authors signing their new books.

This is Bruce Davidson.

BIG was definitely an  important characteristic at the show.

This nude was probably 8 feet tall. Here'a close up showing what looks like film grain:

A large print I liked very much:

by Hiroshi Sugimoto at 47 x 83 inches in an edition of 5 at Pace/MacGill Gallery. I saw this many times, where the edition size was limited to 5.

You can see from the dots on the label that these were very popular, at  $7800 each,

by Martin Schoeller of the artist Jeff Koons and another of Michael Douglas, 

proving that portraits of celebrities is still a big draw. I find that a little discouraging.

And another of Kate Moss, which was quite striking:

by Jean-Baptiste Huynh selling for 18,600 Euros in an edition of 7. It was about 6 feet square.

Joel Meyerwitz signing one of his books.

I liked both of these

by Lauren Marsolier at $7400 each in an edition of 7. They were 36 x 54 inches and from Robert Koch Gallery.

And finally, in a back area of Pace/MacGill's booth, were four Harry Callahans, not attracting a lot of attention, clearly placed there for people to see that the gallery still represented his work:

I would think that if you were collecting 20th century American photographers, you'd have to seriously consider at least having a few of Harry's pictures.

This concludes my coverage of the Paris Photo show. An amazing thing to go to and to experience. I recommend it highly. Plus, being in Paris isn't so bad either.

See you there next year!

Topics: Paris Photo

Permalink | Posted November 23, 2014

Paris Photo 1

I've been back from Europe and Paris Photo a little less than a week and it is time to move into the festival and show what was there that I liked, and perhaps a few I didn't.

Note: I will attribute the works where I can.

Day one I spent walking endlessly around,  quickly overwhelmed by the sheer size and scale of the show. At one point I stopped, got an overpriced sandwich and sat on the steps and told myself to focus, Neal, make some sense out of this.

Overall impressions: Much good work. A great deal of work striving to be seen, noticed, purchased. Major parts of photography neglected, missed or not deemed worthy. At times, the back story was important, such as in David Graham's work:

Graham uses America as his canvas and is from England. Each photograph is a symbol of larger issues brought about by his research and his study of, well, us.

These are by local artist Nick Nixon of his wife's sisters over 40 years. Perhaps you saw the same work on view at the Boston Museum of Fine arts last year. I studied the interest in these. It was steady and people were really looking. These prints were larger than the MFA ones and were the centerpiece of what the gallery was showing. Sales? I saw no red dots but this could be just because the gallery chose not to show them. Would you buy just one of these? Buy one at time seeking to obtain all them?And then this issue of an artist being known for something he/she did as a sort of yearly sideline interests me. I am sure Nick has mixed feeling about this work. I wonder if he would have rather been represented at Paris Photo with some of his other work?

This marble quarry picture illustrates how things reappear.  Although quite lovely it certainly isn't anything new. I was doing these in 8 x 10 in the early nineties from marble quarries in northern Italy and Ed Burtansky practically established his  career with the ones he did of  the quarries in Barre, VT. This one's by Pannos Kokinas.

While some galleries showed very large pieces there were other efforts to show work that would impress from a distance such as this gallery showing grids of photographs.

Arno Minkkinen had a couple of very nice pieces:

Notice that when I took this the first day, the left smaller piece had sold and the larger more iconic image by Arno had not. Arno was there at the show.

This photograph seemed to be positioned to be seen as a blockbuster and it was impressive but also left me a little underwhelmed:

It probably was about 80 inches across.

Stephen Shore's work was there:

Looking solid and Richard Misrach, looking very unimpressive in small prints:

This got me thinking that perhaps the public's appetite for the new is voracious and galleries don't think that by showing established artists they will do as well. Maybe someone like Misrach is already represented everywhere.

I found these fascinating:


which weren't made so much by the photographer as "reassembled" using NASA pictures from satellite views of the Grand Canyon. They were a little cold feeling and by a German photographer.

You'd think these French gallery guys would want to engage with the public a little more:

And this was telling: older dude, presumably with the fat checkbook, there with his young lover or possibly daughter choosing which one they wanted to buy.

Finally, for this post, we'll finish with these which were a little bizarre but fun to look at and see how the artist worked:

They have the characteristic of an artist run amok with the cloning tool in Photoshop

The show for me? Overwhelming, frustrating, enjoyable, educational, informative,  helpful (as an artist), made me angry, made me laugh, made me proud to be a photographer, impressive, depressing. Go again? Absolutely. 

Next post will finish my review of Paris Photo 2014.

Topics: Commentary,Review,Paris Photo

Permalink | Posted November 21, 2014

Paris Photo 1 Innovations

It's been a few days since you've heard from me.  I was at Paris Photo at the Grand Palaise in Paris for three days.

I've only been home for a few hours after a day and night of planes and airports that scrambled my mind but I will post this quick one to get us started. Over the next several days the posts here will be about Paris Photo.

First of all: Paris Photo is a mind blower! More contemporary photography in one place than I have ever seen and a real game changer in terms of understanding what is hot and what is not. Paris Photo tests the world wide market for photography and puts work right up there to be sold. I can report here that interest in photography is huge, probably at an all time high. Remarkable and completely overwhelming. Do not try to assimilate Paris Photo in just one day. Finally,  while easy to get numb and dismissive of much bad work, there was simply stunning work at the show too. I left encouraged for the medium and awed at the beauty and brilliance of some of the work. No longer does photography look new or cutting edge, for the medium as an expressive form has entered into a maturity and parity with other visual arts that is impressive and not to be ignored. Walking endlessly through the show for two days, I left proud to call myself a photographer.


If you go to Paris Photo and to AIPAD (Association of Independent Photography Art Dealers) in Manhattan each spring there always are a few artists showing trying to move photography forward. 

The way the show is organized each gallery has a booth or a display  space. These are galleries from all over the world. Paris Photo gives you a unique  take on contemporary art photography on an international scale. 

The only moving image photograph I saw at Paris Photo was this one at Pace MacGill Gallery:

which was three vertical video screens butted together that combined stills (the scene) with a video running in a loop of the figures moving. It was quite beautiful. It was about 70 inches across and was by Michael Rovner.

Another effort at innovation was this one with cut out figures in a plexiglass box made in an effort to provide actual three dimensionality to the piece:

And finally, this one isn't really "innovative" but it uses contemporary tools in a way that is exciting and quite amazing:

(sorry for reflection) by Andrew Moore at Yancy Richardson Gallery and going for a cool $28,000. This is a low angle aerial, I thought most likely from a helicopter, but the gallery wasn't sure, thinking  it was from a crop duster. Whatever, it was 78 inches across and called "Yellow Porch". I thought it was wonderful. This one, although it was very large and therefore not something you could take using a GoPro camera, forecasts some of the future of photography with more imagery now beginning to come from the use of drones. I predict quick saturation of aerial landscape work (both urban and rural) in the next few years. Take note: we will see more aerial work in the art market as well.  

Next up? More of Paris Photo 2014. Stay tuned.

Topics: Review,Paris Photo

Permalink | Posted November 18, 2014

Make the Work 2

In Make the Work 1 we looked at taking photographs instead of making photographs and I used some pictures I made in the past day or two in Noli along the Mediteranian coast in Italy as examples.

In this one I will try to reinforce my point about working intentionally and with focus to arrive at pictures that communicate something.

I found an empty swimming pool on a pier jutting out into the water. Of course, there was a problem. It was closed and I had to jump a fence to get to it. It is often said by people wiser than I that , "ask and you shall be refused, trespass and you shall be thrown out". This was a situation where the "thrown out" part occurred but not before I got everything I needed.

This was simply so gorgeous I wanted it all in my camera right now. The trick, of course, is to slow yourself down and get the job done. This is a phase I have come to many times in a long career. It's got a "get er done" quality to it or better yet, a "Don't fuck up, Neal" .

At any rate I needed to sort it out, photograph it enough so that I wouldn't have regrets back at home later, to be thorough, and contain my beating heart that was eager to make the pictures, which I did.

Faded purple, deep blue, white and turquoise. Wow! So beautiful. Form, right angles, diagonals, depth and flatness. A Magritte-like ambivalence about projecting forward or receding back, and perfect soft light. Sometimes pictures can be such gifts. This was one of those times.

The clouds were wonderful too. These are just a start, of course. For me, the "completion" happens when I get back home and work the files and turn what I've shot into prints.

If you've followed my work awhile you know I seek to make things I photograph into series but I am not sure this is one as the subject was very reduced. For me the core pictures are the ones of the stairs. Perhaps this shoot will exist as one or two prints. We will see.

One thing I do know and it is something I can say I have been thinking about this time I've been away is that lately I have making prints in a standardized and somewhat formulaic way. Not good. Why think of each project with the same definition in terms of finalized form? It would seem to be important to follow through with prints in a size and tonality that are in sympathy with the pictures made. I will try to practice that when I return home next week.

On to Paris today and to Day 1 of Paris Photo tomorrow: Paris Photo.

Can't wait!

Topics: Foreign,Color,Digital

Permalink | Posted November 12, 2014

Make the Work 1

If you've been reading this blog for the past week or so you know I am in Europe for 2 weeks, spending most of it in northern Italy and ending up with going to Paris Photo later this week. Okay.

What you don't know is that I started this trip with a really painful back and it was marginal whether I was coming at all. I am so glad I made it as the back is improved and my friend John Rizzo and I are now in Noli, on the Mediterrean for two nights before driving up to Paris to arrive Wednesday.

The subject of this post is "Make the Work" and I hope it doesn't come off as a tirade or a rant, but for a photographer like me there are really two modes. One is taking pictures. This is really what everyone does. Maybe the photographic artist has good equipment, maybe a trained eye, maybe even aspirations to do something with the pictures beyond document a trip. But essentially, taking pictures, such as:

Definitely not art. Taken from the balcony of the place where we are staying, it uses photography to convey information in a pleasing, descriptive way.

Now we're getting to it, for the other way is to "Make the Work". Making work, or what we used to call "making" photographs instead of "taking" photographs implies: intention, specificity, thought, possibly research, often multiple shoots, integration, editing, sequencing, passion, commitment and tremendous follow through. And this is big, very big for many of you: making the work means "COMPLETION!". OMG.... so obvious, right? But for so many investment put in leads to disappointment coming out, therefore work not getting finished.

I will show some examples of Making the Work soon but let me extend the "taking pictures" part a little. This morning we walked into town ostensibly to get coffee but brought our cameras. The weather was marginal, putting out a sort of fine mist, but it wasn't cold or windy, so we were hoping to photograph. After coffee we split up as the weather was holding. I photographed along the shore of a typical riviera-like town based on tourism and fishing, happily lining things up and liking what I was seeing. This was pretty much "taking pictures".

Casual, somewhat intentional, a little passive, perhaps some description and even some saving for posterity too (I made the last one to show my grand daughter when I get back home). Certainly practicing, oiling the machinery (me) a little as I was definitely a little rusty.

Yes, I am an experienced photographer and artist and yes, I was looking for something to invest in. But clearly I am "taking pictures" here. Nothing ventured nothing gained. As I walked along and continued, I got away from tourism central a little and into a part of town that was a little grittier and run down. That was good. And then I got to it. As soon as a I saw it I knew this was where I could "make some work".

I'll give you one hint and then bring you into the work in the next post:

Clean, simple, great form, incredible color. I almost feel like writing about it will destroy it but, quite simply, what a find!

Stay tuned to see what I did with it.

Topics: Color,Foreign

Permalink | Posted November 11, 2014