Five Emerging Trends We Spotted at Paris Photo Fair

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Poem #3 by Mona Kuhn, 2015© Mona Kuhn, Courtesy of Jackson Fine Art

As the 20th edition of the world's most prestigious photography fair comes to a close, we round up five stylistic themes for the year ahead; from reinventing the cut-out to the return of found photography

The 20th edition of Paris Photo – the fine art photography world’s most prestigious fair – brought together top galleries and publishers under the Grand Palais’ iconic glass roof. Visitors poured inside the elegant Beaux-Arts style exhibition space to explore pop-up installations, wander through rows of gallery booths, and chat about the art market over glasses of champagne. The fair’s selective program included over 150 galleries from 30 countries, pairing established art dealers with newcomers from around the globe. We combed through the entire exhibition and found five distinct trends gaining momentum in photography today.

1. Cinematic, Dream-Like Scenes

Several photographers presented large-scale scenes that opened a window into their own dreams. Their photographs played with the logical assumption that an image must depict the real, and instead provided the viewer with an escape from reality. Los Angeles-based photographer Mona Kuhn showed several colourful images featuring models enjoying a classical, Dionysian garden scene, as though taken from a dream. Gregory Crewdson, on the other hand, supplied scenes lifted directly from a nightmare; his highly staged cinematic works featuring the dejected, forgotten inhabitants of a rural town in upstate New York, prompting viewers to reflect upon their own domestic lives.

2. Reinventing the Cut-Out

Before Photoshop, the cut-out photograph or collage composition was a common practice amongst photographic artists. In a medium disposed to the unlimited multiplication of reproduction, practitioners could create unique editions of their work by adding new materials to each image. Today’s photographers continue to make use of the cut-and-paste aesthetic to new ends. Emmanuelle Fructus, Masafumi Maita, and Panos Tsagaris are a few key examples of photographers utilising these techniques in order to create compelling work; using colour blocks to outline, cover up, or even redact text.

3. Black and White Negatives

The mechanics of the photographic process itself comes into focus in the works of Vera Lutter, as well as the practice of emerging talents Patrick Bailly-Maître-Grand and Robert Voit. All three photographers experiment with exposure times and alternative lighting techniques to create black and white compositions reminiscent of an X-ray. Their scientific approach to image-making forces the viewer to question how each photograph was made - whether in a traditional darkroom or entirely digitally.

4. Found Photography

Some of the most compelling photographic works at the fair were found by the artist – most often in a flea market – then recycled and repurposed into a new work. Julie Cockburn paints, embroiders, and draws over images she has discovered, adding her own artistic gestures and making them her own. Thierry Struvay, a jewellery businessman from Belgium, curated and reassembled a collection of found photographs from his enormous personal collection, creating his own installation for the cleverly named gallery Sorry We’re Closed, based in Brussels. These artists breathe new life into old, otherwise forgotten photographs, and in the process encourage the viewer to question the work’s authorship.

5. Pushing the Boundaries of Technology

The aesthetics of the digital world – 3D printing, interactive media displays and complex mapping software, for example – continue to influence contemporary fine art photographers, as evidenced at Paris Photo. French photographer Thibault Brunet exhibited a series of digitized architecture from cities around France. Tokyo-based art collective teamLab displayed a moving wave image on a screen at Pace Gallery’s booth. The American artist Jim Campbell used his background in engineering to create LED light works and projected films. All of which goes to prove: photographers are only scratching the surface of how new technologies can push their medium forward.

For more information on Paris Photo, see the website.