Tag Archives: French Capital

New York, Cocteau and a Parabolic Mirror: ‘Berenice Abbott: Photographs’

Though she went to Paris in 1921 to study sculpture, Berenice Abbott would transition to photography when she became Man Ray’s assistant in 1923. Three years later, she set up her own studio, photographing the French capital’s bohemians, artists and intellectuals—and famous friends such as writers James Joyce and Jean Cocteau—before moving back to the States in 1929.

For the next two decades, Abbott focused her lens on Depression-Era New York, producing a number of moving, black-and-white images that would become part of her book Changing New York. This series, along with nearly 120 other images, is being featured in a new exhibition at Toronto’s Ryerson Image Center called Berenice Abbott: Photographs.

“She was an underestimated photographer during her life and even today,” says Gaelle Morel, the exhibition’s curator and author of the accompanying book, Berenice Abbott. “But Berenice has this capacity of mixing different aesthetics, depending on the subject, which was really extraordinary. She can do a more modern, New Vision style when it came to photographing New York buildings, or take a more documentary approach for her portraits.”

Keystone-France / Getty Images

Berenice Abbot standing for a portrait, behind a view-camera, circa early 1900s

Abbott gained acclaim for her own comprehensive career, which would later involve photographic work on physics, commissioned by Boston’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But she also became famous for her staunch support of French photographer Eugène Atget, whom she met in 1925 while living in Paris. Atget died two years later, and it was Abbott who would photo-edit a book of his work and help stage an exhibition of his work in New York. She sold her Atget collection to the Museum of Modern Art in 1968.

“Berenice always said she had two careers—one of her own, and one championing Atget,” Morel says. “She wanted to be recognized as the Atget of New York, not necessarily his aesthetic, but his intellect.”

Berenice Abbott: Photographs, co-organized by The Ryerson Image Centre in Toronto and the Jeu de Paume in Paris, is on view through Aug. 19 at Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario. The accompanying book is published by Editions Hazan and Yale University Press.

Paris Photo 2011 Spotlights Sub-Saharan Africa

With its grand new setting in the Grand Palais, nearly 120 exhibiting galleries, and tens of thousands of expected visitors, Paris Photo has secured its place as the n’est plus ultra of photography fairs.

That hasn’t kept its new director, Julien Frydman, from having even greater ambitions for the 15th anniversary of the annual event, which begins today and runs through Nov. 13. “It’s about getting out of the ghetto,” says Frydman, the former chief of Magnum Photos in the French capital, who notes that until recently, documentary photography has languished as a sideshow in the history of art. “We want to make sure this photo fair is among the best art fairs of the world.”

Paris Photo 2011 certainly has a lot going for it already. This year, the theme of Sub-Saharan Africa will be marked by a display of portraits from the private trove of German collector Artur Walther and a special exhibition of up-and-coming young African talent. Visitors will be treated to a vast array of images from the continent, from Malick Sidebé’s celebration of Malian pop culture in the 1969′s to Richard Mosse’s pink-hued portraits of modern Congo.

In addition to its usual swarm of galleries, this year’s fair will feature a suite of new attractions intended to up its global profile. Frydman hopes the new Paris Photo Platform, a discussion forum, will debunk the notion of documentary photography as an insular art form. Led by art historian Chantal Pontbriant, the Platform will feature “thinkers, artists, art critics—but not the usual suspects,” he promises. To bring alive this dialogue between photography and other genres, storied curator André Magnin will bring together paintings and photographs by artists such as Yinka Shonibare and Seydou Keïta.

Another new feature, “Recent acquisitions,” uncovers how museums collect their artworks, from the Tate Modern’s focus on the oeuvre of Daido Moriyama to the Musée de l’Elysée’s acquisition of the Charlie Chaplin estate.

In time, Frydman hopes that his innovations will “skyrocket the fair into the top 10” art fairs in the world. It’s important to him, however, that it doesn’t lose its heart along the way. “What I wanted to keep is the conviviality,” he says, noting the fair’s ambiance of friendship and shared passion. “That’s something to keep as a treasure.”

Paris Photo runs through Nov. 13 in the French capital. Read more about it here.

Sonia van Gilder Cooke is a reporter in TIME’s London bureau. Follow her on Twitter at @svangildercooke.

Christophe Maout’s city of light


Christophe Maout, HomeLux

Christophe Maout, HomeLux

Paris earned the nickname of ‘ville lumière‘ (City of Light) from having been an ideological home to the age of enlightenment and for it’s famous street lights. Like these lights, the 19th century Haussmanian architecture of the city has come to typify the French capital in most outsiders’ imagining of the city. So Christophe Maout‘s vision of Paris in HomeLux might come as a bit of a shock. HomeLux is shot on the city’s periphery, specifically off the boulevard périphérique, the main ring road surrounding the city. The périphérique ferries traffic around the city and is one of the few areas of Paris where towerblocks appear regularly. Many of these blocks bear the name of major brands in the form of brightly-coloured neon crowns, an advertising practice that is forbidden within the center of the city. The series struck me as a kind of allegory, a preserved city, suspended in time, surrounded by an army of advancing towerblocks shouting their commercial messages at the constant flow of cars circumnavigating the city. The rooftop perspectives in these night exposures give the buildings a different quality, their neon halos seeming to give each building its distinct personality. I met Maout at a dinner last December and, as he gave us a lift home, we drove past many of these buildings lighting up that freezing winter night. A very different view of the city of light.

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