Notes on a visit to Paris Photo and NoFound Photo fair 2012
2 days, one city, 2 photo fairs.
The more academic-traditional and great Paris Photo where the best Art Galleries are representing their most prestigious photographers, and, almost like a Salon des Refusés, the NoFound fair. Besides the fact that both show great photography there’s nothing similar between them.
But first I want to make clear the main difference between Photography, Art-Photography and Fine-Art Photography in a general approach. Photography is when you follow the rules, when you follow the academic and traditional way of photography, worried with the focus, the lenses, the gear, and you do weddings, focused portraits, landscapes, social, etc not worried with being creative but in bringing up the best that the camera can give. Art-Photography is when you still follow the rules and even though you’re creative with them, not risking too much, and in a way you’re a master on it, being a photographer. Fine Art photography is a mean of expression used by a visual artist, as he can use painting or sculpture he is using photography, he knows the rules, he’s not that worried with the gear, but he’s focused on what he wants to express, so for a fine art photographer photography is a mean and not an end. If he has to break the rules of thirds or bring the most of the blurred, he will make it that way so he can express what’s going in his mind.
I’ve never been a photographer, although I studied photography as well as painting and drawing with fine art masters, being my main studies fine arts and history of art and I’ve been a fine artist all my life. I used painting and drawing as way of expression most of all, even if I started with photography and I’m only using photography as a mean of expression recently. I did learn all the rules but if I’m more fulfilled now with photography as a mean is because I feel more safe breaking the rules using this mean than breaking the rules in painting as I had more academic studies in it. However, even if I’m not a fan of Impressionism, I admire how they broke the rules of painting at the time.
Was Courbet (Realism) better painter than the Impressionist Monet? Don’t think so, however Monet broke more rules than Courbet who preferred to stay more academic in his works. If they were photographers I would say that Courbet was Art-photographer and Monet a Fine-Art Photographer.
I’m often asked who were my main references in art, the masters who somehow influenced me, and I always start with the great Hieronymous Bosch to end up with Joel Peter Witkin or Roger Ballen.
Diane Arbus, Robert Mapplethorp broke the rules too and were as important for me to study, but they were not artists, they were art-photographers. But for example Ansel Adams doesn’t say that much to me even if knowing that he was a great photographer who shot wonderful landscapes.
The Paris Photo is a wonderful example of that mix, maybe a top example, as it is where the best galleries exhibit their best artworks in photography, showing both art and fine art photographers. However, even if you can see there the most acclaimed represented artists, it’s not their aim to break the rules, as it was NoFound Photo Fair. In NoFound seems that only artists who did break the rules were there, and of course, not all acclaimed and represented artists, but some outsiders and challenging authors. Paris Photo is still very academic, traditional with the galleries showing their best to please their art collectors, who most of the times are, people who have these collections as a self-challenge. They are conservative enough to like traditional, however, they like to buy and own contemporary art to please and challenge themselves. How cool is it to own a Lee Fiedlander‘s nude bought in Pace McGill Gallery for $9.500? Or even a Robert Frank at Robert Klein Gallery for $85.000? Paris Photo is all about collectors and sales. It’s all about art market. And people need the art market safe if they want to keep art as a safe bet or investment. It’s about Galleries selling to art collectors of photography. Dot. Nothing new.
NoFound Photo fair is the other side of the coin: you barely see the importance of a commercial art gallery there; instead, you see art, artists, culture and breaking the rules. They are challenging you and you go to be challenged. Of course there is money involved, but you don’t see the weight of a stock market like in Paris Photo. You see and you feel and you sit down there for a glass of red wine talking with the artists, the editors who have straight connection with the artists. The artworks are not exhibited to fit perfect like in a museum; they’re exhibited in an honest way, as projects of an artist the way they feel them. Framed or unframed. Like people. Where you can get involved, where you can have an artistic approach. It’s a contemporary art fair much more than the Paris Photo. It’s a fair of artists who use photography as a mean of expression. With emerging artists and not so emerging. With artists who break the rules, like in the Salon des Refusés.
Emeric Glayse, the art director of nofound photo fair 2012, introduces the event as follows: “nofound photo fair arose out of the encounter between nofound, and Access&Paradox, a fair focusing on emerging artists in Paris. nofound 2007-2010 was an online curatorial project dedicated to contemporary photography. I invited photographers and artists to present their most recent work on this platform. Access&Paradox was a contemporary art fair conceived as a forum for exchange. It is the only fair that has ever been part of a UNESCO exchange program.”
The festival aims to feature images by contemporary artists, not necessarily photographers, who are using or reflecting on photography in their works. The nofound Prize is a perfect example of this direction. This awards recognizes an artist who defines photography as a multidimensional art that can interact with other disciplines, media or means of expression. Marie Quéau has been rewarded this year.
And now what?