Since its launch in 1996, Paris Photo has become one of the world’s largest photography fairs, enabling artists, art buyers, celebrities and mere mortals to experience works by masters of the photographic medium, alongside emerging artists from all corners of the globe. This year, Paris Photo Los Angeles exhibited works from 79 different galleries and art book dealers, from an impressive 17 countries worldwide, and counted more than 16,000 visitors through its gates in only first two days; the likes of Heidi Klum, Drew Barrymore, Gwyneth Paltrow, Judd Apatow, Ed Ruscha, Ed Templeton, Paul McCarthy and Catherine Opie to name but a few.
The fair has become an incredible opportunity for collectors, exhibitors and enthusiasts alike and this year, they were able to experience and discover contemporary and historic works amid the subway entrances, bodegas, and West Village walkups of the Paramount Pictures Studios New York Street Backlot. (It should be noted that in this setting the simulacrum was two-fold: a location that duplicates the Big Apple in a beautiful and entirely surreal way, in which representations of people and places are displayed within. It’s perfect!)
Each edition of Paris Photo is one-of-a-kind and this year there was a focus on the solo show, with over 30 single-artist booths shows found within. Case in point: New York’s Capricious 88 showed recent work by Ren Hang, one of China’s most distinctive young photographers. Ample amounts of flesh, flowers, and red lips all taken with a trusty Minolta point-and-shoot was the aesthetic; Juergen Teller is cited as an influence of Hang’s, and if you strolled past the brownstones which opened up into small, makeshift gallery spaces, you’ll have found his work too. His less risqué but highly bloggable portrait of Joan Didion shot for Céline’s SS15 campaign, included.
For “Antépisode”, French duo Mazaccio & Drowilal showed off contemporary and colorful (read: Tumblr IRL) images accompanied by emoji explainers (three palm trees; an apple, a watch and a plant; a knife and fork and a rainbow), all of which came out of their time in BMW’s Residency Program.
Gusford Gallery in Los Angeles showcased Hassan Hajjaj’s “My Rockstars” series that depicts hip Morrocans wearing traditional fabrics with bold, clashing prints framed within a border of similarly bright and clashing food items like packs of Chiclets or tins of sardines. The mix of high and low culture reflected the artist’s desire to fuse street portraiture, local craftsmanship and contemporary art. The upturned Coca-Cola crates in the space were nice companion items to the culturally rich content, too.
Culled from some of the most prestigious MFA programs in California, six Laureates were selected to exhibit their work in the “Introducing! Young California Photographer Award” in an effort to gift the public with the opportunity to engage with new and innovative talent. Arden Ellis Surdam of the Californian Institute of the Arts, Valencia was one such talent whose work examined the convergence of masculine and feminine and both “Facsimile of a Rhino” and “Mimeograph of a Mollusk” were deeply informed by the intersection of gender and camouflage.
MAMA Gallery, an experimental gallery in downtown LA’s Arts District run by Adarsha Benjamin, exhibited photocollages by American visual artist Cole Sternberg. The mixed media images were emotive, inspired by the artist’s grandmother’s den and given poetic titles like, “the view when the roof has blown away” and “these flowers once real are now made by lasers” which added a narrative component to the visually stimulating works.
Truth, fantasy, parody and desire were the keywords attributed to Motoyuki Daifu’s intimate snapshots, represented by Little Big Man Gallery. Utilizing his very existence, and often times shooting in the cramped, food-scattered apartment he shares with his parents and siblings, his large body of work made for an intimate and curious look into his life. “The family is a pubis. So I cover it with pretty panties,” the exhibitions placard reads.
LAM Gallery hung an excellent 2005 series by Zoe Crosher. “Out the Window (LAX)” was the result of the artist gazing out of a huge variety of windows. Taken in various hotel rooms around Los Angeles, she explores space and transience around the Los Angeles International airport. Crosher mapped and photographed planes as they were coming into land from inside a myriad of hotel rooms to create the 31-part series. “The pattern of the drapes change, the color of the stucco exterior changes and the airplanes caught in mid flight move through the atmosphere, but the basic view stays the same,” the artist explains.
Hardhitta Gallery showed the incredible work of born and raised Brooklyn fine art and documentary photographer, Jamel Shabazz. His reflections of the ‘80s document youth culture and the reality of life for African American communities in New York City. One particularly poignant shot of a dapper looking rude boy was captioned, “This brother was one of the most dapper cats in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Sadly, he would lose his life in a very violent confrontation shortly after this picture was taken.” Very real.
Another standout was Maxi Cohen at São Paulo-based Galeria Lume, a stunning series that spans from the ’80s to today, of, essentially, selfies, taken in ladies’ restrooms all around the world. Like that of Nan Goldin, Cohen’s work captures strangers and friends on film in small, beautiful moments of their lives and does so in a way that truly moves you.
There were also copper plates printed onto, archival NASA images, photos detailing the life and times of the Rolling Stones (including an excellent vintage snap of Mick in drag), stand-out pieces from Guy Bourdin and Mona Kuhn, punk photos by Bruce Conner, an image of the ethereal Tilda Swinton taken by influential artist and filmmaker Lynn Hershman, and then there was California Unedited!, which saw rare and never-before-seen glass plate photographs of Latino, Asian, and Native American communities of California resurrected from late 19th century.
Paris Photo Los Angeles gave an incredible snapshot of historical and contemporary photography and like many of the artists it included, successfully explored disconnects between the fantasy of something and its reality.
Paris Photo also shows 12-15 September 2015 in Paris.
Text by Ariel Katz
More: The Hard Way: an interview with Nan Goldin
More: Jamel Shabazz‘s Reflections From The 80s