A Look at Paris Photo Los Angeles 2015

Today we're very happy to present an in-depth report by James Lehrer, who was on assignment for La Vida Leica at the U.S. edition of the celebrated art fair at Paris Photo Los Angeles from May 1-3, 2015. It was held in the backlot of Paramount Studios in Hollywood.

On Friday, March 1 I attended the opening day of Paris Photo LA, a three-day fair held on the backlot and in several sound stages at Paramount Pictures Studios. The press kit notes that Paris Photo was created in 1996 and is the most prestigious art fair dedicated to historical and contemporary photography. It takes place twice annually: at the Grand Palais in Paris in the fall and at Paramount Pictures Studios in Los Angeles in the spring. Paris Photo is attended by collectors of contemporary and modern art, photography professionals, artists, and a growing audience of art appreciators. Each Paris Photo edition is unique and brings together a diverse group of exhibitors with collections focused on the photographic medium. A public program is an integral component of both fairs and is built around cultural events involving artists, art world professionals, collectors, and both international and local cultural institutions. This year, Paris Photo LA is presenting 79 art galleries and specialized art book dealers. Fair partners are J. P. Morgan and BMW; Leica Store and Gallery LA is Associate Partner.

This was my first time attending the fair, and also my first visit to Paramount Pictures Studios. I brought my M9 with a Summicron-M 35mm lens so that I could share some of my impressions with LVL's members.

Paris Photo Los Angeles


Paramount Pictures Studios is over 100 years old, and is the only major motion picture studio still located in Hollywood. Visitors to the Fair enter the Studios through the nondescript Gower Avenue gate, after parking in an adjacent structure. Between Paris Photo staff and Paramount security personnel, visitors are processed into the fair without fuss or delay. Aided by a fold-out map and excellent signage, attendees make their way through a warren of offices with evocative names such as "The Mae West Building" and huge, hanger-like sound stages with less-titillating names like "Stage 32." Overlooking our route to the backlot is a water tower emblazoned with the Paramount Pictures logo. I thought of some the famous people who had walked these alleyways in decades past: Clara Bow, Cecil B. DeMille, W. C. Fields, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, and Gary Cooper, to name just a few.

Paris Photo Los Angeles


Paris Photo and Paramount have provided several convenient bars and outdoor cafes were visitors may purchase alcoholic beverages, soft drinks and snacks. The 85-degree temperature and considerable walking required to see all the exhibits made these watering-holes a necessity.

Paris Photo Los Angeles


Fellow LVL-ers will not be surprised that my first stop was Stage 32, location of the Leica Store and Gallery LA exhibit.

Paris Photo Los Angeles


Stepping from the hot sunlight into the air-conditioned cavern of Stage 32, it took a few seconds for my eyes to adjust. I was welcomed by James Agnew, the Leica Store LA's Manager and Paris Chong from the Leica Gallery LA. James said that if I could circle back to the exhibit a little later, he would be able to show me the newest Leica M camera: the Monochrome version of the M/M-P (Type 246). To tide me over, he and Paris presented me with a copy of Volume 2 of M Magazine, hot off the press, and the Paris Photo LA VIP catalog. My Leica-lust temporarily sated, I strolled Leica's exhibit of François Fontaine’s work entitled "SILENZIO!"

Paris Photo Los Angeles


Fontaine's images are described as "[a]n homage to the cinema of the 40s to today," and they resonate with the cinematically-historic venue.

Paris Photo Los Angeles


Taking my leave, temporarily, of James and Paris, I began navigating the other exhibits in Stage 32. A heavily-accented voice brought me up short: "That's quite a nice camera you have there." The speaker was a well-dressed bespectacled gentleman, the silky sheen of a limited M Edition Leica 60 glowing from his chest. "I could say the same of you" I replied. I had made the acquaintance of Hartmut Hennige, founder of the international online I-Shot-It photo competition.

Paris Photo Los Angeles


Helmut explained that I-Shot-It is a continuously-running contest in which participants pay a small fee for each entry, which goes towards the prizes which include cash and various Leica cameras. The more people who enter the competition, the greater the prize money. Well-known independent judges choose the winning photo in various catagories such as landscape, wildlife, children, and black & white. There is also a free weekly competition, judged by the users. Helmut is a delightful gentleman, and I was glad for his company at various points in the afternoon.

About half of the exhibitors set up their displays in sound stages, the others are installed in the ground floors of various backlot buildings comprising Paramount Pictures' New York street set. Among these are the specialized art book dealers.

Paris Photo Los Angeles


These sets are not false fronts, they are functional buildings. As I walked these "streets" my imagination took me to some of the older neighborhoods in Manhattan which I explored many years ago with my Dad. The big fresnel spotlights on the rooftops were something of a clue as to the true nature of this "neighborhood."

Paris Photo Los Angeles


Taschen (above) has an exhibit entitled "Its Just a Shot Away: The Rolling Stones in Photographs." Aperture's corner bookshop stocks its current titles including collections by Danny Lyon, Stephen Shore, Mary Ellen Mark, Josef Koudelka, Martin Parr, Paul Strand, Diane Arbus and Bruce Davidson, among others.

Paris Photo Los Angeles


My Ona Prince Street bag got considerably heavier following my stroll to the storefront maintained by Artbook/D.A.P. The shelves in this shop bulge with a terrific selection of photo books, among which is a locked showcase containing a mouth-watering collection of rare, out-of-print and signed books.

Paris Photo Los Angeles


The added weight in my bag was a copy of "Before Color" by William Eggleston, published by Steidl. Me, browsing that store with a credit card in my pocket, was simply a disaster waiting to happen; I got out while the getting was good, and continued perambulating old New York.

Paris Photo Los Angeles


Before leaving the fair, I circled back to the Leica Store and Gallery LA exhibit, and caught a glimpse of the new Monochrome model. It had attracted a gaggle of gear-heads, and I was hesitant to get too close for fear of getting trampled, or drooled on.

If you haven't been to one of the Paris Photo exhibitions, you should get it on your calendar. In a very enjoyable day spent in a most interesting venue, you get a cross-sectional view of what's going on in the photographic arts field, feed your book habit, and meet some very interesting people.