What to do at Paris Photo? A short guide

Is it a first time you are going to such big well known photo-exhibition as Paris Photo; remember the Russia saying “You have to see Paris before you die”? Don’t be in a hurry to die – better read this guide to know what proper photographers do in Paris. It is not only about exhibition, you know?!

  1. Book a flat via AirBnb (preferably, book for several people at once, turn the flat into art-hostel), you might also try couchsurfing or better yet write on Facebook to all your friends asking for a place to stay (best done few days before you leave to Paris, so that your post have the most attention, being something like  «My dear friends! I am  urgently looking for a place to sleep for 3 night from 14 to 17, don’t let me sleep under the bridge!”). Undoubtedly, you will find someone who will take responsibility for your life, people kind and fair are everywhere. Staying in a hotel is not cool (and anyway you spent your last money buying photo books, right?). Hanging out together – that’s cool!
  2. Dress as creative as you can – you are going not just for the sake of exhibitions, you are going to show yourself to the world (and maybe your works, if you are lucky).
  3. Take along your last photobook (try to publish it by all means so that you have something to take to Paris Photo), keep it always with you in a big shopper-bag. You never know when you might be able to slip to famous curator while drinking champagne at some closed party. By the way, don’t even think about taking your huge prints with you — every curator will immediately know what are you here for, moreover it is difficult to lounge about at exhibitions. Keep it at home, you will need it next spring when you will go to Houston portfolio-review!
  4. Don’t waist time speaking with other, less known than you, photographers. Your aim is curators!!! No time waisted with those fortune outcasts, you have your day full already: at ten – a breakfast with the editor N., at one – lunch with the curator K., at seven – opening of yet another photo-festival from the parallel program (it might happen your breakfast will be cancelled because editor N. had a blast at a party with curator K., and will at best text you 10 minutes prior your meeting that he’s not able to come due to some important business).
  5. You don’t drink? Shame, that’ll be tough, really. All events start after six and never pass without a glass of wine. Be ready for an afterparty, and a party after afterparty… Last time I saw a photographer with a plastic cup in his mouth while turning over pages of photo book.
  6. When attending events, don’t forget to check-in in every museum and gallery you visit. You’ll be dead tired and won’t be able to perceive any new visual information, but you colleges photographers, who stayed at home in the middle of nowhere in Russia, should see your success and activities. Shoot everything on iPhone and post to Instagram with a cross-post to Facebook. If you don’t have energy left to watch the exhibition, you will be able to have a second look at home at the photos you shoot.
  7. Try to creep at at least one private party, that’s very cool (i should not remind you to take your photobook, right?). An event will be something alike a New York parties from «Sex and the City» – a big empty flat with a view to Eiffel tower, stand-up party, you’ll hear «O my God!» from all around and people laughing. In order to feel comfortable at such events, you need to be able to speak about anything in English (learn about small talk). Make acquaintances, try to guess who might be important for your career, creep in and start talking, draw their attention on yourself (that’s the time to take your recently publish photo book out of the hand bag), exchange business cards. Tomorrow, perhaps, they will not remember you, but this is another story. It is same as a one night sex – even if it was great yesterday, tomorrow you won’t necessary recognise each other. Don’t forget to make a selfie with a curators, for any case.
  8. Know by heart a description of your most important project (keep in mind that after several drinks you might forget the genius concept of yours). You might want to polish your skills in advance at some porftolio reviews where you would keep telling the same story 25 times in a raw in two days. You can also train at any book fairs, go to the stand, introduce yourself and start talking about your project (don’t care about the reaction, you are training, right?). Obviously, the description should be in English. Also keep in your sleeve another project you just started to work on. Don’t need to learn the whole description, just tell in couple of phrases what is it about. Keep it mysterious and don’t forget to add that it is very personal project, no kidding! Promise to send previews by email when the project is ready.
  9. Buy all photobooks you have money for (if in troubles – borrow some money). Prefer cheaper books to have more in total! Keep an eye on the total weight, you don’t want to pay extra in airport, you already spent your last cents on books, right? In worst case – ask your friends from your hometown to carry some of your books. The books will inspire you for new projects and will give you a chance to show off in front of your colleges, who will respect you even more. Later you could also make an exhibition from your photobooks, or even the whole book festival in your home town. That is a chance to start your career as a festival curator.
  10. When you are back to home, have a rest for a week, write couple of reviews about Paris Photo and give them to some popular internet magazines. Languorously complain that everybody show the same things – you saw half of that rubbish this year in Arles and last year at the photography month in Bratislava. It should be a shame to show old black and white photography, which is of interest to collectors only. At the end of your review, don’t forget to mention that photography is in crisis, nobody needs new ideas and everybody try to please curators. Don’t expect money for your article (magazines are also in crisis, if you did not know), but negotiate to add a link to your portfolio page. Now you can add to your CV that you write for popular magazines, not to mention curatorial work (recall photo book festival based on your collection).

You have a feeling that these advices are injurious? Very likely, but if you are serious about photography and career all the time – you can go mad very quickly 😉 I also go to festivals often and live, partly, this exciting life – i recognise myself in two of advices above 🙂 Ok, three of them! ) If have some ideas what to add, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below, I would be happy to add the best in the “Update” of this article. 🙂

Performance “Dead End” by Camila Cañeque:

Leave a Reply