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The Mois de la photo in Paris
By Elisa Mezzetti


This display case of images, different artistic currents and sounding board of an art in constant change which makes the Mois de la Photo of Paris what it is, is upon us again for the eleventh time, confirming its role as an important date in the calendar of international photography events with its ability to attract the attention of specialists such as critics, gallery owners and photographers. From 29th October until 26th November, private galleries, institutes and other cultural centres offer some sixty exhibitions as well as showing a series of films and organising conferences, debates and meetings which look at the theme of photography from every imaginable angle.
The Mois de la Photo, which first appeared in 1980, was born out of a desire to create a network capable of giving photography both a higher profile and its own audience, going beyond the view of photography as a useful documentary tool with an otherwise limited role. After twenty years, the involvement of an informed public may be seen as a decidedly positive outcome, though the range of subject matter offered in the exhibitions remains rather tied to Paris, which features almost exclusively as the topic of the images on show. Just as photography has started to move in new, interesting directions, finally penetrating the closed world of art and even finding a certain financial retribution, proposing exhibitions in which the only theme is Paris appears to be rather too restrictive. Despite this, the exhibitions (especially those of a historical nature) are very interesting and of very high quality.
Among the retrospectives, two of particular interest are worth pointing out; the one dedicated to Germanie Krull at the Centre Georges Pompidou and that dedicated to Edward S. Curtis at the Patrimoine Photographique.
Germanie Krull, born in 1897 of German parents in a region which became part of Poland after the Treaty of Versailles, spent her childhood in various European cities before her family settled in Munich in 1912. She started to experiment with photography in Germany, before her move to Paris in 1924. She was one of the first female photographers to create a new photographic technique, though without any spectacular rhetoric on the image. The exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, which brings together one hundred or so works produced at the end of the 1920s are taken from the Centre itself, from the archives of the Museum Folkwang, as well as from private collections, is the first major retrospective dedicated to the works of Krull after the one at the Musée Reattu in Arles in 1988.
In his studies of the native American peoples, brought together in a collection entitled “The North American Indian”, Curtis uses a both scientific and artistic approach which gives his work a documentary yet spiritual dimension. The success of this approach made him famous both as a great narrator and photographer of the history of the United States.
The exhibition “Voyage Sentimental” by Noboyoshi Araki at the Centre National de la Photographie (which forms part of the “Ouvertures” series) revives a selection of the works previously shown at the Museo Pecci of Prato in Tuscany. The work of the Japanese photographer is known for being a sort of personal fiction in which the real and artificial are mixed together. Araki belongs to the group of artists for whom the life of the creator becomes an integral part of the work and the objects and people around him automatically become his models.
At the Galerie Liliane & Michel Durand-Dessert, Victor Burgin’s exhibition “Le Paris de Nietzche” is to be found. The images of this German photographer revive the memory of the cultural bond between Nietzche and Lou Salomé which they formed during their brief yet intense time spent together. Nietzche never went to Paris, though he was an enthusiastic admirer of the city’s culture and atmosphere. The exhibition is made up of a series of “triptychs” which aim to relive the strength of the tie between these two characters both blessed with an uncommon sensitivity through a set of images which capture some of the less usual aspects of Ville Lumiére.
The Maison Européenne de la Photographie gives ample space to the work of the French photographer Raymond Depardon in and exhibition which documents his entire career as a reporter in the front line. Depardon’s images are those of a photographer who is not bound to the rules of a normal reporter, limited by the need to show an audience images of the great events or the pressing issues of the day. The simple images are not enough in themselves, they need a few words of explanation in order to be considered complete, thus the artist accompanies each shot with a subtitle of his own.
In both branches of the Galerie Lambert/Lambert (Rue Malher and Rue Des Barres) several works produced over the last few years by Arnaud Baumann are on show. Baumann was born in 1953 on the island of La Reunion, but now lives and works in Paris. The exhibition, entitled “Présences”, features people who cut themselves off from the crowd, in brief moments of solitude which contrast with the confused background in which the noisy masses move.
The works of Bernard Plossu are on show at the Galerie Michèle Chomette in an exhibition entitled “Photographies à Paris (et alleurs) 1960 – 2000”. These are black & white images in which the presence of buses, trams, trains and underground trains offer moving points of view, giving the photograph a more dynamic nature. The photographer loves to capture reality though fleeting glimpses, without this making them superficial impressions: it is a question of speed and ability in quickly capturing that which lies around us.
Frank Horvat is known in the world of photography for his images of the 1950s and ‘60s published in the most important French, Italian, English and American magazines such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle… At the Musée Maillol a series of works from those years are on show under the title “A daily report”: 418 images that tell day by day (one image per day, or sometimes two) every month of the year. Every photograph has its own meaning, while being also a simple fragment of a greater time and space. The images are presented in chronological order, from January to December, all in the same format and identified by the date and place in which they were taken. “… The idea of the project was to paint a portrait of my times…” said the artist, an in fact the result seems to be almost a self-portrait of Horvat himself.