Poor war hero
The first thing that draws you in is his steady, clear gaze. In this image his face is tilted to the side because his head rests on a pillow. Then you notice his shaved head, marked at the top by a bloody swelling. In another shot he is presented nude in profile. His body is damaged, covered in marks, wounds and dried blood. These images are part of a set of 300 original shots that make up an album created by a nurse at a Parisian hospital during the Great War.
They all date from 1916 to 1918 and some you can hardly bear to look at. These atrocities, alas, are also reminiscent of a contemporary reality; that of the wars currently shaking the world. During Paris’s photography week, taking place during the staging of the leading global fair in the discipline, Paris-Photo at the Grand Palais Ephémère (from 9 to 12 November 2023), Parisian dealer Adnan Sezer is unveiling this album that he called “Pauvres Héros de la guerre” (on sale for 15,000 euros) as part of a small parallel show. On Saturday 11 November he is taking part in a mini fair that only lasts a day and brings together around fifty professionals from around the world who specialize in vintage photography: Photo Discovery.
Located on the tenth floor of the Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel hotel, it has been organized following the initiative of another vintage photo dealer in Paris, Bruno Tartarin. He has just opened a gallery in the Passage Vivienne, near the Bibliothèque Nationale, showcasing around 3000 selected prints, on sale for between 500 and 10,000 euros. “I wanted people to be able to really see and touch the images.” For 500 euros you can acquire a portrait of a geisha made in Japan in the 1870s.
Gustave Le Gray
For 200,000 euros he is presenting at Photo Discovery one of the icons of photography from the early days of the discipline, a Grande Vague by Gustave Le Gray (1820-1884) made using photomontage in 1857. Le Gray is the “high priest” of primitive photography, which dates from the 40s to the 60s, when everything had yet to be invented. Photography itself was less than 10 years old at the time. This area of collecting is relatively technical, since you have to be able to distinguish between the different practices, the quality of the print, its state of conservation etc…
La Grande Vague, record price
In the last few years there has been a noticeable decline in demand within this specialty, following a powerful hype surrounding it leading up to the year 2000. On 27 October 1999 another La Grande Vague print sold for the equivalent of 792,500 euros. At the time this record price for a vintage photograph was very impressive. Today, clients capable of buying 19th-century prints for over 20,000 euros are few and far between globally. But they all gather in Paris once a year.
Julia Margaret Cameron
At the same time the capital is presenting exceptional exhibitions such as the Jeu de Paume retrospective dedicated to Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879), the great English photographer and pioneer of highly staged shots that are worked like paintings. At Paris-Photo the New York Hans P. Kraus gallery is presenting prints by Cameron on sale for between 30,000 and 120,000 dollars.
Until 25 March the Centre Pompidou is establishing a dialogue in the exhibition “Corps à corps” featuring 1500 shots from the collection of the institution and that of film producer Marin Karmitz.
One of the discoveries from this major show is the Swedish photographer who spent a lot of time living in France, Christer Strömholm (1918-2002), best known for his series of portraits of transsexuals at the Place Blanche. Pauline Bréton is staging a display at the Saint Honoré Art Consulting gallery, located upstairs at Rue Saint Honoré, until 17 November, featuring around thirty small-format shots in black and white made between the 40s and 60s. They come from the artist’s family (on sale for around 3000 euros).
Anna Planas, Paris Photo
Paris Photo, which is assembling 156 galleries this year, is increasingly orientated towards current photography. It presents images across all ranges, without a hierarchy based on price, style or renown, from stars of the discipline to young unknowns. “We are aware of the fact that activity in the art field has slowed down,” observes the new artistic director of Paris Photo, Anna Planas, when we point out the difficult context in which the event has opened. “But prices set here are often considerably lower than those of modern and contemporary art. Furthermore, it’s an unmissable event in the field. This year for example we are expecting 157 curators and friends of museums who are coming from all over the world.”
Carrie Mae Weems
One of the most highly anticipated participators is the powerful Fraenkel gallery from San Francisco. They are displaying, among others, the work of Carrie Mae Weems (born in 1953), an American who is also the subject of an exhibition until 7 January at the Luma Foundation in Arles (See the report here). Weems frequently uses photographs as raw conceptual material for her narratives. At Paris Photo you can see a series of oval photos framed in an antique style, which form an e-oeuvre and all depict the same starry sky. They are a reference to the story of her grandfather who was attacked in 1936 and found his way back home by orienting himself, like many fugitive slaves before him, thanks to the North Star. The Art Institute of Chicago has one of the five copies of this work (on sale for 150,000 dollars).
Juergen Teller at Grand Palais Ephémère
One of the stars of fashion photography is the German who lives in London, Juergen Teller (born in 1964) (See here and here, reports about Juergen Teller). Going against the grain of polished fashion world images, his snapshots depict his subjects in incongruous, even trashy attitudes. He will be the subject from 16 December 2023 of an XXL exhibition that will take over the whole of the Grand Palais Ephémère.
Young women at the doorstep
Meanwhile, at the booth of the Suzanne Tarasiève gallery, which is reconstructing his studio from the time, we can see 90 images made in 1998 and 1999. Around this period he would photograph young women at point blank range on his doorstep when they were arriving to create their portfolio. Strange poses, frightened or amused expressions… A catalogue of emotions. (On sale for 6500 euros in a set of 5 copies).
Since this summer the multinational Gagosian gallery has recruited Joshua Chuang to focus exclusively on photography. Paris Photo is therefore his favourite playground. He has conceived a subtle booth that illustrates different ideas surrounding the still life. We find for example a conceptual image by the famous German photographer, Andreas Gursky (born in 1955), depicting a book open on one of his abstract photos, against another of his prints (released in 12 copies in 2012 it is on sale for 50,000 euros). A photo of the photo on the photo…
Bamiyan cliffs without the Buddha
One of the most spectacular booths is that of the RX gallery, which is dedicating the entirety of its space to fifteen panels measuring 17 metres in total length. They depict a panoramic view of the Bamiyan cliffs in Afghanistan after the destruction caused by the Taliban when they blew up the giant Buddha statues. This “fresco” was a response to a commission by French artist Pascal Convert (born in 1957). Two other prints of the same work are being exhibited right now at Louvre Lens and at the Villa Medici in Rome. On sale for 265,000 euros, the images are also being sold as pairs for 22,000 euros in an edition of five sets. This beautiful work, however, reminds us once again of humanity’s terrible violence.
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