From Boris Mikhailov’s heavyweight survey to Sarah Moon’s miraculous history of Dior, here are the titles to pick up at Paris Photo this week
“Dost thou love pictures?”. a servant asked Christopher Sly in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew – a teasing attempt to stimulate the inebriated beggar’s sexual imagination. If the answer is, for you as it wasn’t quite for Sly, a resounding “yes”, then there are few places you will want to be this week other than Paris Photo, the most attractive spectacle in photography. For the 25th edition, 134 galleries have congregated within the glorious cast-iron birdcage of the Grand Palais Éphémère to sell their wares. But because the natural home for photographs is – of course – books, there is just as much to delight in for the bibliophiles.
The books sector has staged a particularly ambitious presentation of publishers in conjunction with a programme of signings, and it doesn’t end there. While Polycopies has once again transformed a barge moored on the Seine into an ephemeral bookshop, the Vintage Photo Book Fair caters for the connoisseurs with a drool-worthy array of rare collectibles. You could get dizzy easily, but you wouldn’t want it any other way. Here, we share the highlights of our Paris haul.
TOXIC by Hideka Tonomura, 2022
Stepping foot into Hideka Tonomura’s gothic book, unveiled by Zen Foto Gallery, feels like creeping into the depths of her brain, bristling with psychic uncertainties and erotic ambiguities that others dare not admit. Enveloped by a thin, silvery skin, TOXIC orchestrates snapshots from various series – scenes of sapphic passion, blurred cityscapes and, finally, an operating room – to produce an intoxicating inquisition into the ethics of love. This is what Tonomura seeks: when her subjects burst into the flame of their own internal light, and when photography becomes keeper of the fire.
From “Blaue Horse” till Now Days by Boris Mikhailov, 2022
Bone up for Boris Mikhailov’s MEP retrospective – the best show in town by a mile – with Mörel’s From “Blaue Horse” till Now Days. 600 pages deep and packing in 27 series, it’s an all-or-nothing survey that explains the long evolution of the mischievous Ukrainian photographer’s work and the complicity of his wife, Vita. Mikhailov’s subversive “diaries” of life at home both before and after the fall of the Soviet regime have made him one of the most important artists to emerge from the former USSR. He is among those who know that photography does not merely represent reality but, instead, reveals its ruggedness, complexity and, above all, its inexhaustible poetry.
The Ballad of Sexual Dependency by Nan Goldin via Thomas Mailaender, 2022
The extraordinary performance by trickster Thomas Mailaender at RVB Books will leave bookworms thrilled and aghast in equal measure. The product of a manic-workshop-production-meets-sacred-performance, Mailaender’s “chemical library” comprises 30 classic photo books that have been remixed with various photographic printing techniques, dating from primitive times to modern times. All the love, ecstasy and conflict of Nan Goldin’s raw photographic collection has been amped right up: a ballad even more reckless than the original, clutching the rough stuff in a brutal embrace.
Small Myths by Mikiko Hara, 2022
Mikiko Hara has an almost animistic faith in the camera’s ability to channel the reality before her. Because she has developed a nonchalant style in which she mostly shoots without the aid of the viewfinder, her photographs conflate a state of being with the material world. It is natural, then, that Small Myths – her enchanting new book with Chose Commune – makes you feel as if you are nothing but a collection of the fleeting and irregular impressions Hara has snatched in and around Tokyo. The power of their being in a book really comes through, for they are the small stories that make up the bigness of life.
Verso by Thomas Sauvin, 2022
Praise be to Thomas Sauvin for the monumental undertaking that has been collecting, scanning and cataloguing one million negatives disposed of in rubbish bags by Beijing citizens. The latest gem to surface from Sauvin’s Beijing Silvermine is Verso. Housed within a bright pink and orange binder, the newsprint pamphlet presents formal ID photos which the Frenchman has hauntingly exposed with enough light to reveal the signatures inscribed on the undersides. One wonders how many books Sauvin could make utilising this “back-of-photographs” genre alone. It’s a privilege to witness his smart and endlessly imaginative liberations of his “silvermine”, and long may they continue.
Tales of Tono by Daido Moriyama, 2022
Daido Moriyama books abound at the booth of Akio Nagasawa Gallery, who have finally republished Tales of Tono in a version that is said to live up to the 1976 original. Named after Kunio Yanagita’s famous collection of rural folk legends that circulated the Japanese village of Tono, this spooky book sews together a series of diptychs depicting various happenings throughout the surrounds of northern Honshu. However, what we get is not simply a conjuration of the country’s psyche and spirit. By evoking a nascent nostalgia for a place he called his “hometown”, despite the fact it isn’t (in biographical terms), Moriyama offers a thoroughly unnerving take on photography’s inseparability from the dream world.
Ondine by Eikoh Hosoe, 1963
If this floats your boat, there’s a very special opportunity to pick up another myth-induced book by a Japanese great over at Komiyama Book Store’s stand. Eikoh Hosoe’s deeply seductive and stylishly conceived Ondine has actress Kyoko Enami play an immortal aquatic nymph who becomes human after falling in love with a man. The set pieces are accompanied by surreal drawings by the brilliant Japanese illustrator Aquirax Uno, long-time collaborator of Hosoe as well as Shuji Terayama, reminding us just how networked a figure the photographer was within the avant-garde scene of 1960s Tokyo. The copy is slightly soiled, but it adds to its intrigue, making you wonder where it came from.
Dior by Sarah Moon, 2022
One for the selenophiles, this spellbinding three-part boxset by Delpire & Co charts a history of Dior’s restless evolutions via the evanescent, outside-of-time renditions of Sarah Moon (she is signing copies). You feel no one else could have transcribed so perfectly that elusive fantasy from Christian Dior’s memoirs: “Fabric is the sole vehicle of our dreams.”
There is Hope but not for Us by Vincent Delbrouck, 2022
At the crazier end of things is this sizzling palimpsest by Vincent Delbrouck and Editions Bessard, which plucks its title from a Franz Kafka epigram. Bound by a yellow spiral, these pages – some translucent – exhibit a mix of collages and vintage erotica overprinted on an old cactus book. Sometimes emerging from the scraps is Delbrouck’s ex-wife, whose memory lends this book moments of touching vulnerability and tenderness. It’s a compulsive read, whether with or without hope (one feels the former).
Life is Good & Good for You in New York: Trance Witness Revels by William Klein, 1956
It would be a crime to leave town without dropping by Clément Kauter’s Vintage Photo Book Fair and witnessing, in the flesh, the bewildering opus of William Klein, who died in Paris this year. What more can be said of this one-in-a-million book: its high-octane visions, savage crops, rib-tickling captions and dizzying typographies (one could go on and on)? Klein came to Paris to study painting, but it’s photography that owes the greatest debt. Good night, most brilliant one …
Paris Photo runs from November 10-13, 2022.