Two Photo Exhibits

photo: bistro gros minet, les halles

One Off-'Off' and the Other 'On'

Paris:- Friday, 10. November 2000:- A few days before I got out my feet last week and started them walking down sidewalks in search of the 'Mois de la Photo' in Paris, I received an emailed blind-date for a vernissage, slated for late this afternoon.

Since I hadn't found the program for the 'Mois de la Photo' at the time, I didn't know Patrick Smith was not 'in' it. After I wrote up the program last week, I remembered not seeing Patrick's name - not even in the 'Off' part - so I gave him a call.

On the phone he confirmed he was in neither program. So - imagine - you are a photographer in Paris, and you are going to put up an exhibition of photos at the same time as about 40 official photo events, and who knows how many other 'Off' events.

There is even a photo gallery right in my street, only doors away, and it is in the official program. Although I received no invitation to its vernissage on Thursday - only a walk of a minute! - it seemed to be important to get on the métro and ride all the way out beyond République to see Patrick Smith's show.

On the phone I arranged for a visiting time before the vernissage, just in case there might be some sort of an insider's story. There must be some answer to why the whole organization of the 'Mois de la Photo' seems a bit strange to me.

Coming out of the métro Goncourt is not only like rising from the deep bed of the sea but when I get to the surface I think I am inphoto: factory, usine spring court someplace in the world where Africa joins the Middle-East and Asia, which in reality only happens in east Paris; in this case on the Rue du Faubourg du Temple.

The previously unknown 'Usine Spring Court' in its dead-end alley.

Not being overly familiar with this particular part of exotic Paris I have checked the street map beforehand, and have decided not to bother with following whole streets around, but go east and up the Rue du Faubourg du Temple and hope there really is a hole-in-the-wall near number 96, where the map showed some dotted lines.

Going up this street makes me wonder why some people take expensive airplane flights to far-away places, when all you really need is a 5.80 franc métro ticket.

And sure enough, about where number 96 might be, there is a sign so tiny that the word 'Passage' has been abbreviated on it. 'If ye dare, here ye enter the Pge. Piver,' runs in my head.

After an initial blockade, the 'Pge.' opens out to become a whole 'Passage' and I wander down it looking for number five. In the 'Passage' itself there is no number five. No! Number five is hiding in the Impasse Piver. In the world-realm of streets, an 'Impasse' is in the lowest caste of all - in the dead-end alley class.

However, in this one, the one-time factory has been de-rusted and repainted in modern neutral grey, and it is called the 'Usine Spring Court.'

Inside its iron gate, its courtyard is not covered with rusting and greasy used factory gearwheels; its courtyard is covered in nice clean cobblestones. The surrounding factory structure is oddly-shaped enough to have been a real factory at one time, but now it is a sub-division of all sorts of clean-hands industries like film editing.

The Atelier des Mélanges is no longer a sprocket-works; it is really a bar or café, with exhibition space above on a mezzanine. This is where I find Patrick Smith hurriedly wiring up frames for hanging while others sprint around laying out hundreds of dishes filled with munchies and nuts.

Patrick Smith is a cross-channel guy, more French in person than his name hints. He is a full-time photographerphoto: peter smith, photographer of interior decoration for glossy magazines; but his exhibition is the result of his part-time fascination with photographing the Tuileries.

If I hadn't already, I'd take Patrick Smith's advice about shoes.

"Good shoes are the most important photographer's tool," he says. Patrick lives out of the city, so his photo visits to the Tuileries are all-day affairs - and as I well know, 'all day' in good shoes is a lot better than in lousy ones.

Why the Tuileries? He responds, "I like the wide spaces and their big volumes. I don't like closed-in spaces." Yet, he says the 'frames' are very important.

He shows me some of his professional work - the interiors. They are so 'just-so' that they look unreal; like software-produced 3D landscapes. He almost says they are all done with lights, but it is the lights that can take a whole day to set up; for one, hyper-perfect, photo.

In the Tuileries where light is by chance, it might take a day and three rolls of film - to get two or three, nearly perfect, photos. These are the photos on view here.

The 'just-before the vernissage' frenzy reaches a point when it seems like a good time to tell my shoes to leave.See address and dates below.

Saturday, 11. November:- The photo gallery in my street is 'having lunch' when I attempt my visit. I was hoping I could get in a bit before the 14:00 opening - like being 'before the vernissage' - so that I could find out more about the 'Mois de la Photo' in one of the places that is in its program.

My fallback is to sweep the quartier to top up this issue's 'posters of the week.' It is clouding over a bit and this is fine. Anything is better than low, flat, winter sun turning everything into stark contrasts, or impossible reflections.

Halfway around the Place Denfert-Rochereau, the sun starts to do exactly this. In front of one poster I wait for a while but it looks like I'm just making the sun shine longer so I move on.

I'm back at the 'Camera Obscura' gallery just a couple of minutes after two, butphoto: galerue camera obscura not before there are several other serious photo viewers ahead of me. The 'angle' on the photos in the exhibition is that they have all been shot from the photographers' windows.

My very own 'no need for shoes' photo gallery is only a few steps away.

Here, it is the windows' frames that are the 'frames.' This has a long history going all the way back to the first photo, Nicéphore Niepce's 1826 - or earlier? - 'Vue d'une Fenêtre' of Gras.

The title of the exhibition is PSQF which stands for 'Paris Sans Quitter ma Fenêtre,' and it is attributed to Lucien Hervé, who did a series for photos with this title from 1947 to 1950 in the 17th arrondissement and has lent the name to the gallery for this show.

After seeing some of the photos it is hard not to wonder whether I can do anything with the coin laundry across the street from my windows. It seems like small change compared to third-floor views of solitary bicyclists in a snow-covered street.

To be strictly 'artistic' I'll have to do with the 'frames' I've got by chance - using the landlord's first-floor 'frames' would not be playing fair. While I consider the ethics of this, I think I'll go back to the gallery again and take a good and close look at all of the photos on exhibit.

The Exhibitions

Paris, la Poésie du Quotidien - exhibition of photographs by Patrick Smith. From Mondayphoto: invitation, stereo viewer, maths, musee arts et metiers to Friday; from 9:00 to 16:00; until Friday, 8. December. In the Atelier des Mélanges, Usine Spring Court, 5. Passage Piver, Paris 11. Look for entry to the passage near 96. Rue du Faubourg du Temple. Métro: Goncourt.

When flat, this 3D-viewer was an invitation to a photo exhibition of math in stereo images at the Musée des Arts et Métiers.

PSQF - or 'Paris Sans Quitter ma Fenêtre.' From Tuesday to Saturday; from 14:00 to 19:00; until Friday, 8. December. At the photo gallery Camera Obscura, 12. Rue Ernest Cresson, Paris 14. Métro: Denfert- Rochereau. InfoTel.: 01 45 45 67 08.

Ca C'est Paris Photo! - or, 'Le Salon Paris Photo' - at the Carrousel du Louvre, means that this is an 'Art Photo' market, with 90 galleries and publishers, from 15 countries. Many of the Paris galleries featuring photos during the 'Mois de la Photo' will also be present. This is its 4th edition and it takes place from 11:00 to 20:00; on Thursdays until 22:00; from Thursday, 16. November until Sunday, 19. November. Carrousel du Louvre, 99. Rue de Rivoli, Paris 1. Métro: Palais-Royal.

Also see - La Documentation Française has a portal featuring photography in France which contains a calendar of events, useful addresses and links to other photo sites.

Metropole featured a program for the 'Mois de la Photo' in its last issue.

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