November 15: ParisPhoto

Whoa! 55,240 visitors at ParisPhoto this year -- a thousand more than last year!

Here are our notes in case you missed anything for the myriad reasons one could miss things -- distracted by great images, blinded by sunlight, lost, hard to hear... it was a wild one and we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

12 photographers to watch

  • Pieter Hugo, Galerie Stevenson: South African photographer specializing in portraits and society subjects from South Africa

  • Valerie Belin, Galerie Obadia in Paris, Edwynn Houk in NYC and Michael Hoppen in London. French photographer who creates huge photographic collage or “superpositions”, in color for the most recents.

  • Olivier Metzger, Galerie Bertand Grimont. Former student at School of Fine Photography in Arles (best French school for photo in the city hosting a great festival every summer) making narrative series.

  • David Hilliard, Galerie Particuliere. American photographer whose current series focusses on a father-son relationship with recomposed images taken from various angles.

  • Stan Guigui, Galerie Particuliere lived in a drug-gang controlled neighbourhood in Bogota, near the President’s Palace for three years and made portraits of the inhabitants.

  • Penti Sammallahti and Sarah Moon from Galerie Camera Obscura

  • Vee Speers, School Gallery

  • Nicolas Dhervillers, School Gallery

  • Hiroshi Sugimoto, Fraenckel Gallery. Famous photographer well known for his black and white shots of thunder and light.

  • The Finnish school of Photography and Gallery Taik : Johan Esquilden, Santeri Tuori, Sandra Kantanen

  • Sophie Ristelhueber, galerie Poggi

  • Du Zhenjun, galerie RX


Focus on the Finnish School of Photography, in Helsinki

(From Wikipedia)

The Helsinki School refers to a loose group of photography artists, still studying at or already graduated from the Photography department of Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland. This specific photo-education is based at the Aalto University, School of Arts, Design & Architecture which is the largest art school in Scandinavia with 400 teachers and nearly 1700 students, of which 14% are from abroad.


The approach towards photography changed about 30 years ago when the focus on strict photojournalism seemed to change. New teachers brought in new ideas, such as Pentti Sammallahti who encouraged students to perceive themselves as artists, as well as British photographer Martin Parr, who served as visiting Professor in the department for 2 years at the end of the 1980s bringing his own international outlook and experience as a pioneer of the new British photography movement of the time.

Timothy Persons has been Senior Lecturer since 1982 and is currently Director of Professional Studies at the University of Art and Design Helsinki. Persons brought a new way of thinking into the school. He created a virtual gallery, Gallery Taik, which represents outstanding students on international art fairs such as Art Forum, Berlin and Paris Photo.

Helsinki School Internet pages at [1].

The Photography department at University of Art and Design Helsinki's internet pages at [2].

Art of teaching

When selected to the Helsinki School group, students are pushed to: produce series of photographs, thinking about a concept and realizing it, to prepare portfolios that are of international standard, to present each other's work, to write artist statements about their own work and learn both the history of, and the practice of, conceptual art. While students also learn a lot regarding the practices and history of photography as art in the actual curriculum of the Photography department, they are not, contrary to popular belief, pushed to become conceptual photo artists unless they choose to apply to The Helsinki School.


It is impossible to name one style or genre within the Helsinki School. In that way the school isn’t a “School” or movement historically speaking. But what they all have in common, is an intense and precise aesthetic awareness. They work with thoroughly planned concepts and whole thematic series. Finland hasn’t got a long tradition of photography so the style of the artists from the Helsinki School isn’t as self-referential or self-conscious as the Japanese or the American photo-artists’.

“...The photographic art being produced in Helsinki cannot be easily categorized by style, theme or material. The artists’ personal visions, techniques and presentation vary widely. (…) While most of the art is conceptually based and many of the photographs feature the northern light typical of Arctic and sub-arctic regions, a light that can lend an elegiac, lyrical quality to the works, there is no uniform “look” unique to the Helsinki School. Rather, it is the approach taken to making photographic art that is uniqueliy its own and uniquely Finnish in intent, design and execution.” Ferdinand Protzman


Focus on PhotoBooks

We didn’t have much time to discuss photo books, though we left you in that area at the end of the visit. Here’s what you need to know!

Photo books consumed a sizeable portion of the floor at ParisPhoto this year. The booths were incredibly crowded, especially if a named photographer was there signing.

It’s testament to a flourishing industry rejuvenated by the rise in self-publishing. Of the 20 books in the Paris-Photo/Aperture First Book shortlist, 14 were self-published.

Photo books give photographers new ways of storytelling, which can be very rewarding to collector and photographer both. And, while more expensive than regular books, they allow both the photographer and collector a better, more affordable way to indicate the range of a work or series.

Like art, while you can buy them online, they are better appreciated and considered in person, where a buyer can enjoy their heft, the quality of the workmanship, and the resonance of the printing inside. Indeed, photo books are increasingly sophisticated in terms of the materials used in their construction.

As collectibles they are usually more affordable than photography prints, and may increase substantially in value. For photographers, a book is better able to represent the range of the artist’s work or series.

Big name publishing houses include Steidl, Phaidon, Hatje Cantz, Taschen, and smaller houses, specialized in photos only, include Xavier Barral, Filigranes. All exhibitors at Paris are on this list. There is also a dedicated photo book fair at the same time as Paris Photo, called OFF Print.

If you’re interested in photo book collecting

  • look for limited editions, special prints, signed copies, and smaller, independent presses

  • follow blogs like, if your French is up to snuff, , and Aperture, the award-granting body at ParisPhoto