As the capital of that country which gave birth to photography, it comes as no surprise that this city adores the art. Autumn here is marked by a set of events (Paris Photo, Month of the Photo, Salon of the Photo) dedicated to celebrating photos in Paris. In addition, the Paris mairie has started a blog on the subject. Subscribe to that and you’ll have all the photo news in town.
No event, however, is more welcome than Photoquai. This biennial, international exhibition is held by the Musée du Quai Branly. In a spiffy red corridor all its own (a setting specially designed by Patrick Jouin), this open-air exposition celebrates the photo along the Seine across from the Quai Branly. Featuring photographers from the globe’s most far-flung corners, it emphasizes every aspect of the métier. One of the best places to discover new photos in Paris, Photoquai is also completely free of charge. The site even remains accessible 24 hours a day—one reason the last expo racked up half a million visitors.
This year, under artistic director Françoise Huguier, it is both more ambitious and more rewarding. An award winner whose own work is shown around the world, Huguier also makes films and writes books. She even shoots fashion for clients such as Christian Lacroix (one of her work’s first patrons) and the maisons of Hermès and Lanvin. Behind her lens lies a unique personal history—at the age of eight, she was taken hostage in Cambodia. Now, as a pro, Huguier champions many emerging talents—including a number of photographers from Africa, where she organized the first Biennial.
Here, her dedication to the métier pays wonderful dividends. Although there are always great photos all over Paris, Huguier’s choice for Photoquai yields the year’s most eclectic show. The 46 artists here work in Cuba, Singapore, Tanzania, Iraq, Colombia—and 25 other countries. Each presents a dedicated, coherent portfolio with subjects that range all over the place. The styles on show are equally varied, from documentary and traditional portraits to funky photo narratives.
Altogether, there is plenty you shouldn’t miss. Look out for Indian wedding snapper Mahesh Shantaram’s lavish “Matrimania,” the haunting faces captured by Cuba’s Alejandro González and stunning reportage by Julián Lineros (Colombia), Jamal Penjweny (Iraq) and Sergey Loier (Russia).
Although it makes a perfect outing on its own, Photoquai is easily combined with the museum itself. Or, you can just follow it with a walk through the Quai Branly’s gardens and a drink in the outdoor café. This year, Photoquai displays work throughout those spaces—an extra draw for an already-special landscape.
Whatever you do, however, don’t forget to participate. Thanks to the Indian photographer Mohan Verma, who has customized one of the new Photomatons, you can make yourself a Photoquai work of art. Do it and make your own photos in Paris truly special.
Photoquai is open every day until November 11, 2011, across from the Musée du Quai Branly (its Photomaton is available between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. daily).
Photoquai now also takes place in the Eiffel Tower. There, on the first floor, you can find another installment.
When visiting Photoquai, don’t forget the Quai Branly’s gift shop. A treasure trove of finds that is located near the garden, it stocks wonderful African sculptures of small baobab trees. If you have a loved one who is a fan of Le Petit Prince, one of these (as featured in that narrative) makes the perfect present.
Salon of the Photo
Le Blog Photo
Musée du Quai Branly