This past weekend Paris Photo LA and Photo Independent took place at the Paramount Pictures Studio and Raleigh Studios in Hollywood, respectively, with each offering unique variations of the art fair model. Paris Photo presented its third annual Los Angeles offering while Photo Independent presented their second. One major difference between the two is that Paris Photo is an international fine-art photography fair that has produced eighteen photo fairs in Paris along with the three U.S. additions. Meanwhile, Photo Independent is in its second year and is produced by Fabrik Media. Another distinction is that Paris Photo is comprised of many of the biggest galleries and book publishers from around the world while Photo Independent is comprised of a blend of galleries, publishers, and photographers themselves. It is that last point that really sets Photo Independent apart because visitors have the opportunity to speak directly to the creator of the image as opposed to a representative of the image-maker.
The benefit of a fair filled with independent photographers is the ability to discover new artists and to gauge contemporary dialogues about photography from the creators themselves. One of the standouts at I discovered at Photo Independent was Sarah Hadley in the SEEN Collective booth. Hadley’s 10×14-inch piece Prairie Afternoon poetically mashed a number of photographic processes from cyanotype to blue toning, along with black and white silver gelatin into an elegant collage. Another highlight was Charles W. Murphy whose project titled, MAN, explored vulnerable states of male archetypes by “combining traditional masculine iconography and the destruction of tangible objects.” Photographs of men’s bodies were made with a large-format camera and printed onto chromogenic paper; the paper was then burnt, re-photographed, and printed, offering a subtle trompe-l’oeil, as if the burnt photographs have been framed for presentation.
Paris Photo LA was a short shuttle bus ride away from Photo Independent down Melrose Avenue and the fair was bustling by the time I arrived. This year the fair occupied stage 31, 32, the New York Back Lot, and Stage 14. Stages 31 and 32 are quite large and many of the big galleries were set up in large booths. The Von Lintel Gallery booth was impressive this year including displayed works by Edward Burtynsky, Floris Neusüss, Farrah Karapetin, and an excellent example of Klea McKenna’s Rain Studies. Another bright spot was artist Cai Dongdong at the Klein Sun Gallery. Dongdong’s manipulated silver gelatin photo-sculptures shrewdly balance between traditional photographic dictums and contemporary deconstruction of the photographic medium while offering a faint but distinctive Chinese aesthetic.
My favorite aspect of Paris Photo LA was the usage of the New York Back Lot: a miniaturized duplication of New York replete with subway entrances and multi-floor walkups. Walking around the backlot is an enjoyable and surreal experience with the galleries placed inside the functioning storefronts. It is so refreshing to view artworks away from the conventional, three white-walled booths that most art fairs incorporate. Amongst the backlot gallery highlights was M+B Gallery’s presentation of LeRoy Grannis’ vintage surfing photographs that successfully avoided surf clichés, instead depicting the surfers and the waves in the midst of a powerful communion. Another rewarding discovery was Juliette Mogenet at Galerie de Roussan. Mogenet, similarly to Sarah Hadley, lacerates the photographic paper only to collage back together. Unlike Hadley, Mogenet’s photographs are devoid of color and were formally strategic. By the time I stepped into Galerie de Roussan they had given away all of the handouts they brought for Mogenet, which led me to believe, I wasn’t the only admirer.
Overall, Paris Photo LA was a very pleasant experience. The food trucks were well-curated and evenly spaced throughout the fair. Water and alcohol were readily available to purchase and because the fair was on a private lot, attendees were allowed to stroll between galleries and book publishers with their drinks. Both photo fairs are fine companions to one another and I look forward to next year.