FotoFest Home


November 9-15, 2004
Report by Wendy Watriss & Fred Baldwin

Founded in 1980, the biennial Mois de la Photo (Month of Photography) was the first of the big city photography events. Along with the Rencontres d'Arles, founded in 1974, the Mois de la Photo was the inspiration for many subsequent urban photography Biennials, FotoFest among them. With its headquarters at the Maison Europeene de la Photographie (MEP) in the historic Marais District, the Mois de la Photo fills the city of Paris with photography exhibitions for four to six weeks every two years. In 1996, an independent commercial fair Paris Photo was started in the Carrousel du Louvre, at the bottom of the Louvre Museum. In recent years, Paris Photo has become one of the most important, if not the most important, international commercial, contemporary photography fair in the world. Unlike the Mois de la Photo, Paris Photo is an annual event.

To take advantage of the two events coinciding, FotoFest founders took FotoFest Board members and staff to Paris in November. It was five days of immersion in some of the best that photography has to offer, from classical to avant-garde.

Meeting at Maison Europeenne de la Photographie with curator Jean Luc Monterosso (center) and FotoFest Board members Blair Bouchier (left) and James and Sherry Kempner (right)
The tour began at the Maison Europeenne de la Photographie [MEP] with a viewing of two 19th century exhibitions and a private meeting with Jean Luc Monterosso, the founder and director of both MEP and the Mois de la Photo. Jean Luc Monterosso has worked closely with FotoFest and the formation of the Festival of Light network. He announced that he and the Mois de la Photo are now inaugurating a European Month of Photography, which will include Vienna, Berlin, Bratislava, and Moscow in 2006. Under his leadership, the MEP has become one of the most important photographic centers in the world.
Paris Photo - Carrousel du Louvre
The collectors' preview at Paris Photo before the public opening permitted everyone from FotoFest to have a 'quieter' look at the 100+ galleries before the long lines of people began to come. In the past three years, an increasing number of U.S. photography galleries, particularly New York galleries, have come to participate in Paris Photo. In addition to the French galleries, there are German, Austrian, Dutch, Belgian, Spanish, Swiss, Hungarian, Czech, Russian, Scandinavian, British, and Canadian galleries. Artists as well as curators and gallery directors were available to greet people. This year, Switzerland was the country being honored, and the much respected Fotomuseum Winterthur near Zurich had an exhibit of its collection.
Photographers Gallery, London, at Paris Photo - FotoFest Board member Michael Casey (left) with Karen Bering (right)
There was so much to see at Paris Photo that FotoFest representatives went back for four of the five days to meet with artists and gallery directors. We had special tours with artists and dealers at several booths. Not surprisingly, a number of prints were purchased.
Paris Photo - FotoFest Board member Blair Bouchier and his wife Janice (center) with Wendy Watriss (right) at the Galerie les Filles du Calvaire booth at Paris Photo, talk with gallery artist Corinne Mercadier (left)
Paris Photo - FotoFest staff member Marta Sanchez Philippe (left), who coordinated the trip, with Czech artists Jindra Vikova (center) and Pavel Banka (right)
Between visits to Paris Photo {and many good meals), FotoFest Board members and staff had special tours of museums and Mois de la Photo exhibitions. At Paris' new photography museum, the reconverted Jeu de Paume, director Regis Durand came to talk to visitors about the curatorial direction of the eclectic show, L'ombre du temps, documents and experimentation in 20th century photography that challenges traditional ideas of 'representation' and 'authenticity' in photography. This show was, in some ways, a provocative counterpoint to the two classical exhibitions at MEP. At the Musee d'Orsay, we had a curatorial tour of the late 19th century work of Etienne-Jules Marey (1830-1904) whose pioneering works, Mouvements de l'air, on motion, waves, and air currents was influential in the development of 20th century aviation. The show was a revealing testament to the way art and science were often very intertwined in French culture and economy in the 1800s and early 1900s. The Musee d'Orsay's large Alfred Steiglitz exhibition, New York et l'art moderne, with photography, paintings, and books, provided a very rare juxtaposition of Steiglitz' own work and that of painters and photographers he admired and exhibited.
FotoFest's Marta Sanchez Philippe (left) and Wendy Watriss (center) with FotoFest 2004-Water artist Corinne Mercadier (right) at the Becher exhibition at Centre Pompidou
A talk with the Centre Pompidou curator Quentin Bejac, was part of special tour of one of the most comprehensive Bernd and Hilla Becher exhibitions presented to date. Presented by the Centre Pompidou, the show of over 200 works of industrial sites showed the Bechers'extraordinary range and quality, and the conceptual discipline of their work.
Centre Pompidou - FotoFest Board members Michael Casey and Blair Bouchier talk with Pompidou curator Quentin Bajac (right) at the Bernd and Hilla Becher exhibition
Centre Pompidou - Janice Bouchier (front) and James Kempner (rear) at the Bernd and Hilla Becher exhibition
The meetings at the new Cartier-Bresson Foundation provided a wonderful opportunity to talk with artist Martine Franck, Henri Cartier Bresson's wife, and the Foundation's curator Agnes Sire and also the chance to see a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition - the recreation of Cartier Bresson's first exhibition in the U.S. at Julian Levy's landmark New York gallery. Exhibiting with Cartier Bresson were Walker Evans, Paul Strand, and Manuel Alvarez Bravo. Almost all the works were vintage prints, loaned by an impressive group of museums and private collections.
Cartier-Bresson Foundation - Martine Franck (rear-left), photographer and wife of Henri Cartier-Bresson, and curator Agnes Sire (rear-right) talk with Wendy Watriss while FotoFest Board members Blair Bouchier and Michael Casey discuss the exhibition
Three new art spaces in Paris showed very different approaches to photography and art. La Maison Rouge, Fondation de Antoine Galbert in the Bastille District is dedicated to showing the works of major private collections and the mind of the collector. The collection of the German collector Harold Falckenberg from Hamburg was a mixture of installation, drawing, painting, sculpture and photography, showing the unease and brutal angst of the late 20th century and the breakdown of traditionally defined boundaries between different art forms and the presumed separation of art and reality.
Palais de Tokyo
The Palais de Tokyo is the massive, new avant-garde multi-media space occupying half of the old 1937 World Fair buildings overlooking the Seine. Under the direction of Jerome Sans, the Palais de Tokyo is fiercely avant-garde, exploring all media and breaking down old curatorial hierarchies. The space itself is open from noon to midnight. The huge installations and walk-in tunnel, Parade #4 of Paris-based, Chinese artist Wang Do takes aim at the simultaneity and surfeit of electronic and televised media, blurring distinctions between what is real and illusion, what is war and what is sex. An independent installation in another large hallway of the Palais de Tokyo was filled with non-curated works, large-scale digital images and films brought in on a daily basis by artists. The only written criteria for acceptance of works are the format, time and conditions in which the works are to be delivered. The large prints, made on site from DVDs and Hewlett Packard printers, are constantly rotated as new works come in and the early works moved to the Web site. A very different new contemporary space is Le Plateau, founded several years ago in a working class neighborhood in the 19th arrondissement on the north side of Paris. It is an old neighborhood that had already seen a number of old buildings replaced by modern apartment buildings. When this building was threatened by demolition and development at the hands of a large telecommunications company, members of the neighborhood protested. Coming together, they went to the publicly funded Fonds de l'art contemporain and succeeded in having the building saved as a contemporary art space and adjoining nursery school. The building has a two-year history of high-quality, sophisticated contemporary art exhibitions. The November exhibit, which FotoFest attended, was the work of French artist Eric Poitevin. It is an exceptionally interesting exhibition, beautiful in the surface quality of the prints and imagery and very complex in the conceptual direction and execution of the works. Both the artist and the curator, Eric Corne, were at the exhibition, and we were able to talk extensively about the work.
Le Plateau - FotoFest Board members James and Sherry Kempner looking at Eric Poitevin's work
The last day of the visit was a trip to the glass and steel contemporary art center of the Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain built by the acclaimed contemporary French architect Jean Nouvel. We had the privilege of private tours by two of the finest artists working with photography today, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Raymond Depardon. Hiroshi Sugimoto designed a spectacular installation of his new work just for Jean Nouvel's building. His large, sculptural images are based on miniature objects used for teaching art and engineering in 19th century universities. Mr. Sugimoto spoke about his work with disarming ease and how these images had been influenced by Marcel Duchamp's work. Raymond Depardon, known for his intimate diaristic, visual narratives of personal travels, war, and important social events, talked about his new film installation of six large-scale videos of public scenes in five major cities around the world. Four earlier films were shown, one of them was the moving public funeral of the Czech student Jan Palach who set himself on fire in Wenceslas Square to protest the Soviet/Warsaw Pact military invasion of Czechoslovakia and the brutal end of the Prague Spring political reforms.
Fondation Cartier - Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto talking about his exhibit with FotoFest Board member James Kempner
Woven into the museum and gallery visits were special dinners at artist studios and galleries in Paris. One such dinner was hosted by Marc and Catherine Riboud with other photography luminaries such as Josef Koudelka, William Klein, Leonard Freedman, and Wu Jialin. It was a very special trip!
FotoFest Board member James Kempner (left) and Fred Baldwin (center) at dinner with Marc Riboud (right) at his home and atelier
Marc Riboud with Chinese photographer Wu Jialan, whose work was featured in FotoFest 1996, (center) and family at dinner
Marta Sanchez Philippe, Janice Bouchier, James Kempner, Marc Riboud and Wendy Watriss (left to right)
Photographs taken with Leica Digilux 2