Photo Paris (13-17 November) was exceptionally crowded: all the better, perhaps, to look at work - at least - which contains no people, however many walk in front of it...
Paul Graham: Double Rainbow, Donegal, Ireland, 2013, at carlier | gebauer, Berlin
Given Paul Graham’s political concerns, his photos of Irish rainbows might suggest an after-storm epiphany for the end of The Troubles, or at least a meditation on the tempting illogicality of reading history into natural phenomena. Or has the US-based Briton merely hit on a subterfuge to enable creditable use of the beautiful but potentially over-sentimental themes of the rainbow, the pot of gold and its absence, the magic in such quotidiata as photography?
Taysir Batniji: Chambers, 2005 at Eric Dupont Gallery, Paris
Initially I saw no reason to be attracted to Taysir Batniji’s series of 23 colour photographs of unoccupied student rooms at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Mans, France. Yet the leaving behind of personal objects and traces in sparse semi-abandonment generates a definite aesthetic, a sense of intrusion into intimacy and an echo of other temporary states of existence which cannot but feel loaded when the photographer is Palestinian.
Sean Hemmerle: The Saddam Hussein Family Portrait, 2003 at Feroz Gallery, Bonn
Sean Hemmerle, who served in the U.S. Army (1984-1988), has documented the effects of war in New York, Afghanistan and Iraq. This unportrait photograph from after Hussein’s fall from power documents an attempted forgetting which has removed him and his family just as – and also quite differently from - how he himself engineered the removal of so many from their lives. If only it were as easy to eliminate the worst aspects of the past…
Penelope Umbrico: 5db0_1-2.jpg from Broken Sets / eBay 2008/2014 at Robert Koch Gallery, San Francisco
American artist Penelope Umbrico is known for culling unexpected sets of images from the Internet: her collection of suns will feature at the Photographer’s Gallery from 4 Dec- 28 Jan. The ‘Broken Sets’ of chromogenic prints on metallic paper show that mal-operative LCD TVs – being sold on eBay for their parts – do function to the point of illuminating the screen. In these unpictures, the failure of new technology folds into with the aesthetics of modernist abstraction in a match-up of utopian aspirations.
Stephen Shore: 4-Part Variation, 1969 at Museum of Modern Art, New York
MOMA showed recent photo-acquisitions in one of Paris Photo’s special exhibitions, including the black and white serialism of this grid of a car with four doors open by a photographer better known for his influential documentations of America. The same base photograph, but cropped in four different ways to alter how close we seem to it, appears 32 times in an 8x4 sequence which I found teasingly impossible to resolve into a regular pattern: if ‘1’ is the most distanced view, it goes 1 2 3 4 / 1 2 3 1 / 4 2 3 1 / 2 4 3 1, then repeats.
Putput: popsicles, 2012 at Galerie Esther Woerdehoff,Paris
Interdisciplinary Swiss/Danish artist duo Putput have made a cheerfully saturated series of scouring pads masquerading as ice lollies, on the one hand referencing classic product shots, on the other hand undermining the sales intent by the disfunctional result. That putput me in mind of how food is often rendered inedible in order to photograph it optimally; and of how someone has to do the domestic drudgery which facilitates children's enjoyment of treats…
Santeri Tuori: Sky 22, 2011-14 at Gallery Taik Persons, Berlin
The Helsinki School of photographers may be large and loose-knit, but they show well together. This example from Taik Persons' wide range of Finnish work is an immersively scaled (245 x 170cm) example from Santeri Tuori’s Sky Series. The luminously painterly appearance is attributable to the layering of black and white and colour photographs, so combining weathers and moments such that, in curator Jan-Erik Lundström’s words Tuori seems ‘to choreograph the disappearance of time’.
Yuriko Takagi : SEI @ Lazarew Gallery, Paris
As if 169 galleries were insufficient, November was ‘photo month’ throughout Paris, Out of that extra multitude, Tokyo photographer Yuriko Takagi caught my eye with her 28 black and white close-ups of buds. Not only do they become flowers before the act, full of convoluted sexual promise, but Takagi creates a surreal symbology by linking each to one of the 28 separate words which are apparently pronounced ‘SEI’ in Japanese. That sounds more than confusing, ranging as they do from 'prosperous' to death, world, correct, west, control, sincerity, hope and strength.
Stéphane Couturier: Louis Vuitton Foundation for Creation under construction, 2014
Stéphane Couturier brings a distinctive colour and design sense to scenes of construction and transformation, often by laying one view over another. He showed well with Algerian scenes in Paris Photo. Yet, as he was born in the Paris suburb of Neuilly sur Seine, it seemed only right that he was chosen to document the development of the area’s new building, an ‘iceberg’ design by Frank Gehry which opened in late October, and is said to have cost Bernard Arnault over €100m.