Paris Photo was overwhelming, incredible, genuinely life assuring and terrifying all at once. Lets go through each adjective…
Overwhelming – the absolute scale and amount of imagery, stands, books and people was immense, starting the day early in the queue at 11.30 (opening at 12) it just built itself bigger and bigger (very badly, it wasn’t up to standard as a ‘British queue!’) and I actually got to experience the scale of photography on a worldwide platform, screaming with passion and joy for as art form that I have chosen to base my life around. It was overwhelming for that reason but also for the fact that there was so much to get through in just one day, we managed, only just, leaving at 7pm, our minds absolutely filled with photography goodness. If I attend next year I might choose to get a 2 day ticket, and give myself more time to experience everything with an active mind.
Also overwhelming was the chance to see Aaron Schuman and Joel Sternfeld talk, Schuman actually one of the photographer’s that allowed me to see photography as more than images on a page, his book Slant bringing me the idea of conceptual work, and working with ideas and words just as much as working with imagery. This was back when I was studying for my A-levels, and arguably one of the main reasons I pursued photography with such passion.
Incredible – incredible/ɪnˈkrɛdɪb(ə)l/adjective
1.impossible to believe.
Again, the utter amount of images and their scale and place in the industry was just ‘impossible to believe’, knowing that even here doesn’t cover every photographer or artist known in the world. The experience was almost like a mediative state to be in, the consumption of images on such a big scale just put me almost in a trance.
Life Assuring – This experience made me believe and realise that actually what I am choosing to do with my life is not ‘easy’, or a ‘waste of a degree’, even if I don’t display in Paris Photo, the energy and commitment and passion that the photography industry just blew me away, making me realise that what I do actually matters somewhere out there in the world.
Terrifying – For the exact same reasons I have written above, everything about this experience was also terrifying. The reality of the photography industry is vicious and fast paced, and sometimes that energy and commitment isn’t enough to sustain yourself. As much as I enjoyed the experience it also put reality from my blindspot into full view, realising just how important the things we talk about in PC2 are. Every stand had a theme, a business card, access to a website and professional and well conducted staff able to talk about the art. I felt really small and insignificant but perhaps in the best way, knowing that this was my first ‘real’ experience of the industry. I hope that in future years I am able to start with the idea of ‘networking’ inside these events, talking to people, even for a chat about the work starts to get recognised as passion for the work we are seeing.
I felt the same way when I approached Offprint and Polycopies, although both felt much more informal than Paris Photo, an occasion to actually just gush about our collective love for books and network with potential publishers (again, maybe in the future!) Being there with friends I think almost put me off approaching anyone, and I find the same in a lot of situations, allowing them to dictate the happenings instead of taking charge of my own story, only really doing that when I’m on my own and having to be ‘self-sufficient’. I think this is definitely something to work on for future events, either committing to going alone or committing to talking to people at the event.
I found Offprint much more informal and more of a collective of all types of zines, magazines and published photo books. This large expanse of work allowed the products on show to be much more experimental and dare I say ‘avant-garde’ in some cases, really pushing the boat out on what constitutes as a piece of publishable work. But I loved this, it gave me ideas and let me come to the conclusion that art is just whatever you make it and the limits are made by only your imagination. I came out reeling with thoughts like ‘oh my gosh, I need to go bigger, smaller, upside and inside out with my approach to how I work’, this sustaining of ideas and love for photography doesn’t seem to be filled by my current practise, the making and experimenting is what pushes it to another space for me.