Julien Frydman, Director of Paris Photo, Grand Palais, Paris
Just six months in to the role of Director of Paris Photo on the move of Paris Photo from the Carrousel du Louvre to the Grand Palais, the year before the inaugural launch of Paris Photo Los Angeles at Parmount Studios,
Pippa Jane Wielgos speaks to Julien Frydman on his new role and 'photography now'.
PJW: How will Paris Photo be different this year and what key themes will you be promoting?
JF: The major change will be the location. Moving from the underground floor of the Carrousel, (which was a successful venue for 15 years) to the majestic sumptous Grand Palais definitely generates an amazing new energy.
In essence, and metaphoric terms, we are moving from the underground to a more enlightened place that suits the perception of photography today. The nature of the space also enables a number of different galleries.
Therefore we are able to make sure that the diversity of the galleries represents “what is photography today” and its inter-relation with other forms of art which I feel is important to help the audience to put in to perspective what is at stake right now in photography.
We are offering approximately 40,000 visitors throughout the duration of four days the opportunity to see 118 galleries. There was a rise in this year from 95 to 118 galleries participating and we actually had an amazing number of applications which means that there is a huge development of the market of photography.
PJW: What is at stake with photography now?
JF: Photography is to be put into perspective in the history of the Arts and in the evolution of contemporary practices. I think what is really happening right now is that we are move and more in-to describing photography and artists and their work in the story of art in general and it is no longer a perception that photography is a ‘ghetto’ trying to distinguish it from the rest but trying to integrate with the rest, as was done by certain galleries a long time ago, in a sense in a more relaxed way.
For example the show of Jeff Wall, (currently showing in Brussels), epitomises this for me because suddenly Jeff Wall can say this is a tribute to the photographers that influence my work and he can do that now in a quiet way because he has done all the work during the seventeen years to explain the narrative discourse of his work.
Other examples are Pace/MacGill Gallery’s recent show on Harry Callahan and Jackson Pollock. Early Photographs and Drawings: Brassai – Dubuffet at Galerie Karsten Greve in Paris or Thomas Sander in Cologne who curated the amazing show with Donald Judd and Lewis Baltz.
So for different reasons the contextualisation and parallel of photography and other visual form of arts becomes relevant in understanding the wider discourse and art historical narrative and I believe that we are now more in-to that relationship, which is good for photography which can be seen through the increase in the market for publication of art photography and desirability to acquire monographs and artists books.
So in certain respects this means that we are now entering in-to a ‘mature’ confrontation and discussion and putting things in-to perspective in relation to artists’ bodies of work rather than categories and consequently, with this happening it raises the bench mark and intellectual level of critical debate and critique of the art form.
In my opinion, the heightened intellectual process of historicism and contextualisation is good for the development of the critique and art of photography and the breaking of new territory and semantics of interpretation.
PJW: Why did Reed (the previous organisers) decide to change the venue?
JF: We decided to change it primarily because if you have fifteen years in the same venue, there’s a major risk of it to become one day obsolete. You need to be always new and fresh but mainly to be able to present to the audience the best piece of art available on the market.
PJW: .Could you indicate why and the importance of the Tate Gallery (London) being invited to Paris Photo 2011?
JF: We invited Simon Baker of the Tate because of the importance of his strategic new role in the development of photography in the UK.
The Tate were invited as one of three special exhibitors because of the importance of the new acquisitions programme under the supervision of Simon Baker and the important role the Tate plays in creating new shows.
We also consider that important collectors and photographers as Michael Wilson, Martin Parr have open new doors for photography as well as the Brighton Festival provides a lot of new energy.
So it’s good to see England moving so strongly on Photography.
The other feature I am implementing are acquisitions from the museum and to pay tribute to the role of the collectors.
I think that it’s very important to understand that collecting photography is very new.
There are a number of great undiscovered roles or a great body of work made through the collecting of collectors that sometimes can reveal new statements. I invited Artur Walther (the Walther Collection) because of the theme on African Photography.
PJW: What’s your expert view on the special tribute exhibition on emerging African photography from Bamarko to Cape Town?
JF: I was afraid of the theme as France being a former colonial country. I didn’t want an approach that would try to define what photography from Africa is. What is the representation of Africa today? Africa is a continent with many regions with different histories. There are a number of artists that are there so the curatorial and exhibition process is to look at their work and put their work in relationship and comparison juxtaposed against other bodies of work.
Therefore, I don’t wish to have or for the show to inadvertently create a ‘ghetto’ or misinterpretation of post colonialism. I wanted to make sure we had something different.
The fact that Artur Walther started his collection by himself putting in-to perspective artists from Africa with masterpieces of German photographers and that he tried to look at artists and certain themes, I thought it was exactly the way we should address the subject.
“Les Recontres de Bamako” have been instrumental to ensuring African photographers and phtography should have a voice – in a certain context so I am happy to pay tribute to the role of “Les Recontres de Bamako”.
PJW: How and in what way is the context of the UK and European avant garde being promoted and are there any new emerging ‘trends’ in photography that the public should possibly be aware of?
JF: I am against the word ‘trends’’ I don’t think this is relevant. For me what is more important is the quality of work of whatever period it is.
By the nature of the fair, which enlarges and includes contemporary work possibly enables certain types of work to be seen in a better context but I would not define it as a ‘trend’.
The only trend apparent is that photography is now as represented by the diversity, by the richness of approach and redefinition of the parameters of photography and the different elements that contextualise the work of photographers.
I think for me that is the major elements. Photography enables a richness of interpretation. You can look at the same body of work through a different ‘lens’ and really get a different reading.
PJW: How through your new directorship will you lead forward Paris Photo?
JF: Well, it’s an experience you have to go through. It was such short notice start and a lot had to be implemented.
Paris Photo will be a great moment in this new venue, which was former celebrated historic venue for the French World Expo of 1900.