Art & Design

November 8, 2016

The Best of Paris Photo

As the 20th edition of the world’s largest photography fair opens its doors, we present seven essential works

  • Written by Brooke McCord

Kicking off this Thursday is Paris Photo, the world’s largest international art fair for photography. The city’s Grand Palais will be overrun with art aficionados, collectors, professionals and dealers, all celebrating the 20th edition of a fair that celebrates photography in all its forms, from early vintage images to contemporary works. With 153 galleries representing numerous photographers, we pick out seven of this year’s key photographers.

Thierry Struvay

Thierry Struvay isn’t your average photographer. In fact, he’s been an avid collector of the medium for over 30 years, since the day he began rummaging through boxes of anonymous unwanted images at flea markets in Belgium and yard sales in the United States.

Thierry Struvay, 1961, Belgium, Sorry We’re Closed Gallery

Thierry Struvay, 1961, Belgium, Sorry We’re Closed Gallery

Struvay’s years in the game have granted him the ability to spot a unique or magical moment, sparking the transition from an anecdote in a forgotten family album to a piece of art hanging in a gallery space, rescued and restored for others to enjoy. Ranging from archetypal American scenes and banal moments, to exotic landscapes and unexpected encounters, each is immortalised by a camera’s flash. The unique collection that Struvay has amassed was part of a stand-alone exhibition at Brussels’ Sorry We’re Closed gallery at the start of this year.

Alex Webb

Alex Webb’s image Tehuantepec was taken in Mexico in 1985 and later appeared in The Suffering of Light, the first comprehensive monograph to examine the Magnum photographer’s prolific body of work.

Alex Webb, Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, 1985, Robert Klein Gallery

Alex Webb, Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, 1985, Robert Klein Gallery

Spanning the genres of documentary, fine art and street photography with his imagery, many of Webb’s iconic photographs have been taken in diverse locations across the globe, and his extensive exploration of colour and light has seen him gain recognition as a pioneer of American colour photography since the 1970s.

His documentation of the streets of Mexico from 1975 to 2007 was recently the subject of an exhibition titled La Calle in New York this September with an accompanying book published in conjunction with Televisa Foundation, which is set to be at the Robert Klein gallery at Paris Photo this weekend.

Fred Herzog

Something of a Canadian Martin Parr, German born photographer Fred Herzog is best known for his documentation of life in Vancouver, Canada. Having been displaced from Germany during the Second World War, the photographer initially cut his teeth as a medical photographer.

Fred Herzog, Paris Café, 1959, Equinox Gallery

Fred Herzog, Paris Café, 1959, Equinox Gallery

He later switched his focus subject to working class people and their relationship with the city around them. Whilst Paris Café, sees a man standing in the window of a café at Christmas besides Pepsi-Cola and “Meal Tickets” signs, other images document the inside of barber shops and loan shops, or show Vancouver by night, faded wartime propaganda and post-war era grocery stores.

Gina Pane

Gina Pane is a radical French artist who uses the body as a way to explore themes of discomfort, experience and empathy. A founder and leading member of Art Corporel – the Body Art Movement in France during the 1970s – Pane has become famous for the physical pain she self-inflicts upon herself as an artist.


Gina Pane, Psyché, 1974, Richard Saltoun Gallery

Her 1974 performance piece Psyché (forming the trio of photographs seen here) saw Pane stand in front of a mirror slicing her face and stomach with a blade, whilst the incisions below her eyebrows gave the impression of tears of blood. Other works have seen Pane insert rose thorns into her arms and burning her body with candles, each process a further exploration into the artist’s desire to force the viewer to feel excruciating empathy and extreme discomfort.

Helga Paris

German photographer Helga Paris documented daily life in East Germany in the early 1980s. Having been displaced from her feather at the end of the Second World War, before being raised by her mother in an almost all-female community, it was one of her aunts who introduced her to photography.

Helga Paris, Häuser und Gesichter. Halle, 1983-1985, Kicken Gallery

Helga Paris, Häuser und Gesichter. Halle, 1983-1985, Kicken Gallery

It’s Paris’ documentation of East Berlin’s Halle district that she’s most well known for. The series of images were the result of a group of photographers and artists coming together and deciding to photograph East Germany systematically as photographers had done in the 1930s and 1940s for the Farm Security Administration on behalf of the US government.

Francois-Xavier Gbré

Living and working in the Côte d’Ivoire, the body of Gbré’s work on display documents the geography of West Africa between 2011 and 2015 – from memories and explorations of post-colonial landscapes, to those that are redefined by current events.

Appartement du directeur I, Imprimerie Nationale, Porto Novo, 2012 Tracks series © François-Xavier Gbré

Appartement du directeur I, Imprimerie Nationale, Porto Novo, 2012. Tracks series © François-Xavier Gbré

His aesthetic examines the evolution of local architectural forms, but has universal appeal. Station CIPD #2, (pictured at top) was taken at an abandoned gas station in Ségou, Mali, but looks like a beautifully coloured monument.

Martin Parr

Taken from Small World – a collection of photographs taken from 1987 to 1994 – this image of Las Vegas’ Eiffel Tower is part of a series in which famed British photographer Martin Parr observes global tourism through a satirical lens.

Martin Parr, Las Vegas, Small World, 2000. Janet Borden Gallery

Martin Parr, Las Vegas, Small World, 2000. Janet Borden Gallery

Putting an irreverent spin on the industry, the other photos found in Small World, range from plastic poncho-clad tourists marching through the Basilica di San Marco in Venice, to stereotypical British passengers sat in Tenerife airport awaiting a flight home. Depicting the loss of authentic cultures that tourists so desperately seek, Small World is another example of the British photographer’s innovative approach to social documentary, that results in images that have the power to be witty, absurd, invasive, garish and banal all at once.


Main image: Francois-Xavier Gbré, Station CIDP #2, Ségou, Mali, Cécile Fakhoury Gallery


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