The first weekend of May was a feast of photography in Los Angeles. Paris Photo LA, in its third year, was all the buzz as it took over a few sound stages and the classic New York City backlot at Paramount Studios. While across the street at Raleigh Studios, the upstart fairs Photo Independent and Photo Contemporary were working hard to get their share of photography limelight. With more than a hundred galleries from over 20 countries represented across the all fairs there was a little something for everyone. I am always interested in artists who reach beyond the traditional photographic conventions and I was excited to find the following five international photographers who have had limited exposure in the US.
Galerie E.G.P showed at Paris Photo LA for the first time this year and dedicated their entire booth to the work of Rachel Rom, the conceptual name of French photographer and filmmaker Romina Shama. This was the first time her work was shown in the U.S. I was enamored with the Wall series which is made up of several sculptural pieces based on re-photographed Polaroids of the artist’s mother at Rom’s current age. Each unique work of art is constructed from the actual photographic materials of the two previous interconnected exhibitions. The objects on display at Paris Photo are the third iteration of the work and each successive exhibition shows an increasing deeper personal reflection on the subject.
Henri van Noordenburg
The Queensland Center for Photography booth at Photo Contemporary included a piece from Australia-based and Dutch-born artist Henri van Noordenburg. His new series Water Line (2014-2015) utilizes the unique pigment print etching technique that has been his signature for a few years. With Water Line, van Noordenburg puts an artistic narrative on the history of the Dutch flooding their family farms in the Netherlands to stave off the advancing German army during World War II. He prints historic archive imagery and then, by hand, he scrapes away the print’s blue pigment to reveal what he imagines his father’s family farmlands might have looked like once flooded. Each print is a beautifully detailed work of unique photographic art.
M97 Gallery in Shanghai is one of the leading contemporary photography galleries in China. Their Paris Photo LA booth featured two of Wang Ningde’s newer photographic light installations in his Form of Light series. These large (78 x 56”) works of art are constructed from thousands of pieces of transparent photographic film that, when lit from above, cast a shadow of the reassembled image, giving it an ethereal three dimensional quality. Each impressive installation is made in an edition of three.
Galerie de Roussan featured only one artist at Paris Photo LA. Paris-based artist Juliette Mognet’s work was among my favorites and I kept coming back to see it again. Mogenet cuts, tears, folds, etches and then reassembles her back and white photographs into transformative collages. Each unique pieces has a depth that feels ominous and a bit foreboding, yet lures you in anyway. Mogenet’s fantastic work has not been exhibited in the US.
Toirac & Elias
Cuba was the theme at the Paris Photo LA booth of Pan American Art Projects, based in Miami. With the warming of US relations with Cuba, I hope there will be a larger appetite to see the country through the eyes of Cuban artists and not just an American artistic viewpoint. I was pleased to see the Cuban response to the classic Walker Evens photos of Cuba in the 1933. Well-known Cuban painter José Toirac collaborated with the Cuban documentary photographer, Ricardo Elías to create a contemporary homage to Evans. Elías visited the original Evans photo locations and re-photographed them without any human figures. Toirac then painted the original figures in Evans’ images onto gold leaf wood blocks and mounted them in place on the Elías photographs. The result is a refreshing contemporary Cuban interpretation on a series of images that are hallmarks of American photography. Completed in 2007-2009 this work has had some exposure in the U.S., but it was nice to see them in person and I hope they garner a wider audience.
Dan Shepherd was raised in the Pacific Northwest, enjoyed many creative years in New York City and Los Angeles, and now finds himself based in Seattle. He currently splits his time between the visual arts and working for conservation organizations.