Alternative Processes and Techniques at Paris Photo 2023

This selection of photographs made using alternative processes and techniques was drawn from the booths at Paris Photo 2023. For further background on how and why this “collection” was formed, and the structure of the resulting slideshow, visit the introductory page (here).

This collection consists of 20 works featuring alternative processes and techniques made between roughly 1930 and the present. There were so many worthy options for inclusion in this collection that another 10 or even 20 works could easily been added without sacrificing much in the way of quality, but the curatorial limits of this exercise were fixed in advance, so the pile has been agonizingly chopped back to fit the original constraints, leaving out names like Raoul Hausmann, Jeanne Mandello, Bernar Venet, Kilian Breier, Dora Maurer, Roger Humbert, Raymond Hains, Yael Martínez, Ouka Leele, Raphael Dallaporta, Katrien De Blauwer, Johanna Calle, Hans Hamid Rasmussen, Thorsten Brinkmann, and even NASA, among others. Given the quoted prices for these individual works (in various currencies), the approximate aggregate cost of acquiring this entire “collection” would be $610000.

Galerie Kicken Berlin (here): This powerhouse 1928 photomontage by El Lissitzky offers a knockout entry point to alternative processes. The work intermingles imagery Lissitzky made as part of the Soviet pavilion at the Pressa exhibition in Cologne with an image of Lenin’s death mask, creating a haunting sandwiched expression. Priced at €330000.

Galerie Julian Sander (here): Elfriede Stegemeyer was a new discovery for me at this year’s fair, even though she made this photocollage in 1936. Mixing elements of drawing, collage, and rephotography (with flipped reversal), she plays with the implied geometries of a cactus plant, creating interlocked shadows and textural elements similar to the tactile bumps on the leaves. Priced at €5000.

Magnum Gallery (here): Werner Bischof made this striking image in 1946 with a Devin tricolor camera, a device that created three filtered separations (RGB) from one exposure, thereby allowing the three monochrome negatives to be reassembled into a single three layer print. While other images Bischof made with the camera look more “normal” in terms of color, this rainbow-hued image of drifting ink/paint in water highlights the strange effects that could come from experimenting with (or deliberately misaligning) its underlying component properties. Priced at €3900.

Galerie Kicken Berlin (here): Proof that even a straightforward head shot portrait can be radically re-imagined with alternative techniques, this Otto Steinert work from 1952 uses tonal inversion and a reversed doubled/sandwiched negative to create an eerie triple-eyed likeness. The reversed strands of hair are similarly unexpected, adding a scratchy brushstroke-like texture and overlapped patterning. Priced at €55000.

Photo Edition Berlin (here): The swirling curves in this 1955 “rhythmogram” by Heinrich Heidersberger were made using a purpose-built room-sized orbiting light source that was employed to trace lines of light on a photographic plate. Up close, this vintage print is remarkably crisp and modern looking, representing the creative beginnings of what we might now label algorithmic art. Priced at €6600.

Gagosian Gallery (here): Frederick Sommer’s smoke on cellophane abstractions from the early 1960s have a surprising degree of surface texture and layering. Made with a candle and its rising soot, the works are swirling and gestural, almost like graffiti with an element of gritty scraped striation. Sommer’s prints are routinely exquisite, reveling in each tactile detail. Priced at $25000.

Howard Greenberg Gallery (here): Ray Metzker had a photographic career full of innovative experimentation, and this 1967 work turns the aesthetics of a contact sheet (or gridded film strips) into a twistingly disorienting ride. Individual frames capture silhouetted pedestrians, with moments repeated and realigned in a dizzying kaleidoscope of movement. Priced at €30000.

Parrotta Contemporary Art (here): Not every photogram reveals its sources or subjects easily, and this 1969 effort by Detlef Orlopp (a student of Otto Steinert) defies easy identification, which is perhaps part of the intentional mystery of art making. The rounded forms provide a bold graphic order, only to be disrupted by a more mystical drift of ghostly black fibers. Priced at €12800.

Die Mauer (here): The nested tubes of light in this 1971 image by the Italian photographer Gianfranco Chiavacci spin with transparent thinness. This large vintage print allows the viewer in close, where volume is seemingly created out of emptiness. Priced at €15000.

Galerie Kicken Berlin (here): These experimental works from 1972 by Monika von Boch were apparently made using a pierced crystal ball, although how the light enters and exits the orb is still somewhat of a puzzle. Her result crackle with untamed energy, with flashes and vectors seeming to jump free from the hard edged orb. Priced at €8000 each.

Studio G7 (here): Texture matching in alternate mediums is the artistic approach taken by Franco Guerzoni in this 1973 work. The rippled corrugated tin in the makeshift structure in the photograph is given sculptural physicality in the plaster fragments below, creating an engaging back-and-forth of pattern translation. Priced at €12000.

Galerie Anita Beckers (here): Annegret Soltau has consistently used sewing to disrupt and reconfigure her photographs, and this small vintage work from 1977 grafts her own eye onto the blurred face of her husband. Not only does the sewing add a physical touch (and visual patterning) to the collage activity, it seems to control the rawness of the tears and combinations, obscuring and suturing at the same time. Priced at €5500.

Galerie Loock (here): The three photographs in this 1983 work by the East German photographer Gabriele Stötzer have all been bound with dyed wool yarn, the kind the artist was using for other textile arts and hand made clothing at the time. The nudes are overtly performative, using a plate of glass to flatten a face, and the added strands of yarn seem to bind and truss the bodies, physically pulling and tightening around and over. Priced at €15000.

Galeria Lume (here): This 1999 work by the Brazilian photographer Ana Vitória Mussi turns negative scraps into a tumbling cascade, like a curtain or a waterfall. Up close, the images reveal wrestling bodies, where violence is transformed into fluttering abstraction. The way the piece catches light and casts shadows is also clever, adding another shifting layer of intricate patterning. Priced at $16000.

Louise Alexander (here)/Fellowship (here): As AI pushes further and further into contemporary photography, it seems only natural that we would want to go back to the definitional “beginning” in some manner, and try to understand how these AI tools have been evolving over time. These 2015 images were made using the first text to image conversion engine, called alignDRAW, developed by a University of Toronto team led by Elman Mansimov. The images here were derived from the prompt “a bowl of bananas on the table”, and output as simple images of 32×32 pixels. In the years since, AI engines have gotten more powerful and the resulting image outputs have become more sophisticated, but the uncanny problem solving of a machine mind remains a constant. These tentative first attempts oscillate uneasily between abstraction and representation, their colors and forms reaching for what we recognize as bananas but never quite coalescing into what we expect. Which is, of course, exactly why they are interesting. Priced at €2500.

Galerie Binome (here): This 2018 photograph of Chechnya by Lisa Sartorio has been literally destroyed, the print on delicate kozo paper scuffed and erased to the point of distortion and illegibility. It’s a physical intervention with tactile resonance, with buildings toppled and smoke rising through the element of touch. Priced at €5800.

Patricia Conde Galeria (here): Alexandra Germán’s cloudscapes were made in 2020, documenting the view from her studio on particular days. What makes them different than most is that they have been burned across the center in the shape of a jagged line, and filled in with metallic material. The burns aren’t random, but replicas of the burns recorded on small strips of paper by a heliograph, a 19th century device that records the hours of sunlight in a day. The works combine the photographic cloudscape on a specific day with the pattern on sunlight recorded that day, creating an intriguing image/object parallel. Priced at $2700.

Stevenson (here): This pandemic era work by Guy Tillim finds the South African photographer experimenting with transparent overpainting. In this work, an already complex image of hands is made even more dissolvingly disorienting, the almost Modernist geometric shapes pushing and pulling on the spatial dynamics of the composition. Priced at €5500.

Bruce Silverstein (here): This 2022 diptych by Dakota Mace incorporates glass beads and discs of abalone shell into splattery chemigram compositions, adding design elements from her Diné (Navajo) heritage. The underlying washes have a dark forbidding feel, the red graphics seeming to pull through the dark memories. Priced at $9500.

Robert Morat Galerie (here): This brand new work from Hannah Hughes comes from her 2023 “Tuck” series, where one element of her negative space photocollage is physically tucked into the rephotographed print. This approach builds on her earlier efforts (as seen in her recent photobook Mirror Image, reviewed here), creating another layer of physical illusionism. Priced at €5500.

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Read more about: Alexandra Germán, Ana Vitória Mussi, Annegret Soltau, Dakota Mace, Detlef Orlopp, El Lissitzky, Elfriede Stegemeyer, Elman Mansimov, Franco Guerzoni, Frederick Sommer, Gabriele Stötzer, Gianfranco Chiavacci, Guy Tillim, Hannah Hughes, Heinrich Heidersberger, Lisa Sartorio, Monika von Boch, Otto Steinert, Ray K. Metzker, Werner Bischof, Bruce Silverstein Gallery, Die Mauer, Fellowship, Gagosian Gallery, Galeria Lume, Galerie Anita Beckers, Galerie Binome, Galerie Julian Sander, Galerie Kicken Berlin, Galerie Loock, Howard Greenberg Gallery, Louise Alexander Gallery, Magnum Gallery, Patricia Conde Galeria, Photo Edition Berlin, Robert Morat Galerie, Stevenson Gallery, Studio G7, Paris Photo

One comment

  1. Pete /

    The absorption and thrill that these photographers would have been experiencing is so evident. I’m particularly glad to find out about Lisa Sartorio from your pick.

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