It happens to be An American Season at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris (MEP) this winter. With four photo exhibitions centred around the work of American photographers, here are some excellent reasons to visit MEP this January:
Family Pictures from the MEP’s Collections
Exploring the themes of family, genealogy and identity in American photography, this collective exhibition presents intimate works by some of the finest American photographers – Richard Avedon, Harry Callahan, Elliot Erwitt, Robert Frank, Nan Goldin, Emmet Gowin, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Nicholas Nixon and W Eugene Smith. The photographs selected for the exhibition do not fit the traditional definition of ‘family pictures’. Rather, these are aesthetic representations of the complex interactions between the photographers and those close to them.
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For instance, Harry Callahan photographed his wife, Eleanor, for 50 years, in the intimacy of their home and in public, dressed and naked, in a manner that is at the same time distant and personal. Nicholas Nixon is fascinated by the bonds that unite his wife Bebe and her three younger sisters, Heather, Mimi and Laurie. Each summer since 1975, he photographs them side by side but always in the same order, creating a remarkable series of deeply personal portraits.
Harry Callahan: French Archives, Aix-en-Provence 1957-1958
Harry Callahan lived in Aix-en-Provence between September 1957-1958, having come to France on a sabbatical from his position as the head of photography at Chicago’s Institute of Design. MEP’s exhibition French Archives follows a recent donation of 130 original prints from this period as selected by the artist under the same title. His photographs are experimental, particularly those of his wife Eleanor double exposed upon scenes of a field. His other photographs explore light and shadow and details in everyday design are mesmerising. This one is a beautiful exhibition, and Callahan’s photo archive is whimsical poetry.
Compared to Henry Callahan’s serene work, Andres Serrano’s portraits are unsettling and at times, shocking. The exhibition at Maison Européenne de la Photographie presents an overview of his work over the last two decades. First in the show is a selection of photographs from his America series which he conceptualised in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy. The series consists of some 100 portraits of Americans from all walks of life – firefighters, policemen, soldiers, doctors, clowns, migrant workers, and celebrities like Yoko Ono, Alec Baldwin, Snoop Dogg and Anna Nicole Smith to name a few. Next is The Klan – a series of striking portraits of Ku Klux Klan members, followed by selected works from The Interpretation of Dreams, portraits from Native Americans and the beautiful photographs from the Cuba series.
The second part of the Andres Serrano exhibition is built around his work with homeless people in New York and Brussels – Signs of the Times, Residents of New York and Denizens of Brussels – some of them presented here for the first time.
Diana Michener: Anima, Animals
The fourth exhibition, Anima, Animals by Diana Michener is a study of animals in captivity. Michener first photographed rhinos, elephants and antelopes kept in a local zoo during a trip to India. She followed it with photographs in the Jardin des Plantes of Paris, then in various other towns in Europe and the United States. Even though the artist photographs these animals with a certain dignity and subtlety, their photographs and their fate as captive prisoners for human satiation remain heart-breaking.
An American Season, on view until January 29, 2017 at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, 5/7 Rue de Fourcy – 75004 Paris – Admission €8 – €4.5 or free under certain conditions)
November 9, 2016 to January 29, 2017
At Maison Européenne de la Photographie
An American Season
With An American Season, the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris presents the grand portraits by Andres Serrano, the French Archives of Harry Callahan, the unsettling photographs of captive animals by Diana Michener, as well as a collective exhibition of legendary American photographers, Family Pictures, exploring the themes of family, identity and genealogy.
Maison Européenne de la Photographie