This year our volunteer intern Jemma Hall took on the beast that is Paris Photo. Here she shares her top tips and highlights for catching the best of one of the worlds biggest and best photo fairs.

For four days of the year, Paris hosts one of the world’s largest photo fairs. At heart, the fair is a well-oiled sales machine however set against a backdrop off city-wide exhibitions and less commercial book fairs like Off Print and Polycopies, Paris Photo is still one of the best opportunities to catch the photo world's biggest names, and new talent collectively in plain sight.

For those who haven’t been before, Paris Photo is situated in the beautiful Grand Palais, it can be quiet an overwhelming experience, all the sights, sounds and squeezing through the tight crowds has the potential to leave even the most eager and energetic exhausted. I visited with a group of friends on the Saturday arriving at around 10 am and leaving at 5 pm. If you are looking for an experience without the hustle and bustle then here are my top eight picks from this year, from prints and books to stalls and talks, hopefully, it’ll inspire and maybe we’ll see you there next year!

© Mark Steinmetz South by Yancey Richardson Gallery Athens, Georgia, 1996.

My first pick is of photographer Mark Steinmetz, whose work has an earnest, humorous, and modest sympathy for American culture. The print pictured is one from his South Central series, printed large, this soft black and white toned image echo a lot of Steinmetz’s sensibility in picturing the difficulties of transitioning through youthfulness to adulthood.

© Alec Soth Looking for Love by LOOCK Gallerie Archival Pigment Print (printed by the artist, 2017)

Looking for Love 1996 is one of the first published bodies of work by Alec Soth. As the name suggests, the series is about searching for love by the heart and through the lens and tells us as much about Soth's subjects as it does himself. Soth shot this series whilst he was still working in a commercial darkroom that was close by to the bar that many of these images are taken from. Soth visited frequently and became close friends with the locals who allowed him to capture their intimate moments, flirtatious gestures and longing glances.  In the following evenings back at the lab, Soth would smuggle his own processed prints he had taken out of the lab via sticky tape on the inside of his trouser leg. The work mirrors the young photographer's shy character and insecurities but also tells of how Soth (and many other photographers) come to fall in love with the medium itself.  It was a real treat to see this work in full print as its most famously presented in book form.

© Nelli Palomaki, Dora and Vera 2017 Pigment print © the artist, courtesy Gallery Taik Persons

Passing by the four prints by Nelli Palomaki entitled Dora and Vera, left me with a sense of unease and admiration for the subjects. Their posture and gaze told me they were wiser than their years and they knew more about me than myself. This series of portraits felt haunting but beautiful and enchanting to look at.

Evelyn Hofer New York 1965, M Bochum Gallery, Dye Transfer © Estate Evelyn Hofer, Courtesy Galerie m Bochum, Germany

American art critic Hilton Kramer once called Evelyn Hofer “the most famous unknown photographer in America.” Though largely unknown by name during her lifetime, her work has left a lasting impact and remains an inspiration to many today. Photographers such as Thomas Struth, Joel Sternfeld, Adam Bartos, Rineke Dijkstra, Judith Joy Ross, and Alec Soth all have noted Evelyn’s influence in their own work. I was delighted to stumble across the work of Evelyn’s Hofer twice in one weekend. First at Paris Photo in print at the M Bochum Gallery and then at a small bookshop named Librairie Galerie Louis Rozen. M Bochum Gallery stood out for their interest in rediscovering important photographers of the 20th Century and I was happy that Evelyn was finally receiving the recognition she deserves!

© Tom Wood, Series: Photienabn, Analog hand-printed on Kodak premium paper ©Tom WOOD courtesy Galerie SIT DOWN

Seeing Tom Woods work is always rewarding, however, his earlier work is hard to come by. Luckily Sit Down Gallery had all eyes on Tom alongside his recently published ‘Men’ and ‘Woman’ book which makes his work accessible again to a new generation of photographers. His ‘to the bone’ look at youth culture, is a refreshing and honest cure to the blemish-free filters that create a world far from the truth.

Photobooks & Stalls:  Hellen Van Meene at APERTURE, Aperture Photo Award

This year’s Paris Photo Aperture Foundation had some incredible entries. The two that stood out to me the most were Mary Frey’s Reading Raymond Carver, published by Peperoni Books and Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen’s Eyes as Big as Plates, published by Forlaget Press. Frey’s beautifully posed tableaux styled images are illuminated with a giant flash and are reminiscent of the wonderful snapshot aesthetic of Soth’s Songbook mixed with the intimacy of some of Bertien Van Manen’s family work.

My second choice by Hjorth & Ikonen is the beautiful and alternative portrayal of the mortality and frailty of our surroundings and that of our closest loved ones. The book is a humorous addressing of the link between nature and the role the elderly play in society, this is a deep-rooted, wise and a wonderfully curated, sequenced and edited body of work.

I also got the chance to meet one of my favourite photographers Hellen Van Meene at the Aperture bookstall. I managed to grab a moment of her time to answer some questions, I asked her who her inspirations were, what advice she would give to someone undertaking portraiture, and what best drives her. In response: she isn’t a great collector of photo books, she never lets a moment pass her by and that her intuition in following what she believes helps her carve out a tougher more defined route in the photographic world. 

Offprint during Paris Photo

Offprint was a friendlier, less competitive affair than Paris Photo. The atmosphere was more relaxed and was ideal for networking and exchanging ideas for collaboration and supporting the community. It was here that I plucked up the courage to talk to some of my favourite photographers one-on-one to try to find out more about their practice and how they got to where they are in their careers.

My highlight would be the wonderful people at the MACK table, including an artist named Emmanuelle Andrianjafy. who I spoke to prior to her book signing. Her book ‘Nothing’s in Vain’ went from conception to completion in two years. We spoke about how the tight collaboration processes between photographer and publisher, how one can submit something so unfinished, but it’s up to the publisher's eye to see the finished product and resolve the work into something complete.

It took me a couple of days to let all learnt during my time in Paris sink in. A memorable and insightful trip that is sure to inspire my studies at the University of Salford. I can’t wait to return next year to see and learn more!

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