Paris Photo 2018: female pioneers, unseen Bourdin, and the male gaze reframed

Paris Photo 2018: female pioneers, unseen Bourdin, and the male gaze reframed

It has taken 22 years, but the current edition of Paris Photo shines the spotlight on to female photographers. ‘Around 60 per cent of students in art schools are female, yet in our museums only 20 per cent of work is by women,’ says fair director Florence Bourgeois. ‘The French government has now realised this.’ With this in mind, she and artistic director Christoph Wiesner insisted that this year, galleries showcase their female stars too.

One hundred works from 1868 to the present day are highlighted, stretching from Margaret Watkins and Lucia Moholy to contemporaries such as Lisa Sartorio and Wiame Haddad. The 1970s was a standout decade, defined by feminist photographers such as Jo Spence, Renate Bertlmann (who is representing Austria in the 2019 Venice Biennale) and Jo Ann Callis who shot semi-naked women in her California living room while her husband was at work.

Girl With Black Washcloth, 1977, by Jo Ann Callis

Girl With Black Washcloth, 1977, by Jo Ann Callis. Courtesy of Rosegallery

What’s more, in a separate section entitled Curiosa, erotica, gender and the male gaze come under scrutiny. Through work by 14 photographers, its aim, says curator Martha Kirszenbaum, is to ‘look beyond the middle aged white man photographing a young girl in a hotel room with a whip’ (though there is still plenty of that elsewhere).

Images of naked women in kinbaku-bi (Japanese bondage) by octogenarian Daido Moriyama – whose arrival had flash bulbs popping – appear alongside hardcore shots by the notorious Nobuyoshi Araki. ‘The Japanese invented bondage,’ says Kirszenbaum ‘they took the ropes from passing ships.’ (She has yet to uncover any images of bound up Japanese men.) And with 130 self-portraits by French photographer Antoine D’agata, injecting himself with heroin and filming sex acts with unknowing prostitutes, Kirszenbaum urges viewers to ‘assess everything with fresh eyes’.

Beyond the gender politics, landscape, still life, fashion and abstract works fill the aisles of the Grand Palais. Israeli Ori Gersht recreates still life scenes inspired by classical artists then blows them up, and British artist Richard Learoyd photographs live and dead poppies with a homemade camera obscura.

Untitled, San Francisco, 2014, by Pieter Hugo

Untitled, San Francisco, 2014, by Pieter Hugo. © The artist. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

Thirty works by William Wegman of his beloved Weimaraner dogs in various guises are on show at Huxley-Parlour gallery; master of architecture and nature, Düsseldorf photographer Axel Hütte occupies the Prism section, which is dedicated to large scale works; and French photographer Charles Fréger continues his documentation of tribal costumes.

Goodman Gallery is a paean to South African legend David Goldblatt, who passed away this year. No one chronicled Apartheid-era politics like he did and that he was back in Paris was fitting, for his last show closed at the Centre Pompidou in May, a month before he died. §

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