For a long time I have been subscribing to Alex Novac’s newsletter. Alex sells photographs and is a well-respected expert, particularly in the area of 19th century images. He also takes it upon himself to provide updates to his subscribers on a variety of current events, and I paid particular attention to his summary of discussions with exhibitors at Paris Photo, which I attend each November and have for years.
This year, he interviewed and quoted a number of exhibitors who overall were very happy with the exhibition and enjoyed the incredible attendance and the many sales, as well as seeing what their colleagues are up to. Paris Photo remains the key event in the calendar of anyone collecting photographs, wherever they might be from in the world.
In 2018, one of the booths at Paris Photo was Peter Fetterman, one of the Grand Masters of the medium from his gallery in California. Peter Fetterman’s booth at Paris Photo was a wonderful display of what the French call ‘Humaniste’ photography, what I often translate to ‘The Human Condition’. I quote, as follows from Alex’s newsletter:
With regards to the photography market generally, Fetterman commented, “If it’s great material and it touches people, then the market is strong. I think people are more sensitive now and can tell when an image has been created for a market rather than as a personal statement. All these photographers in my booth, back in the day they never sold anything. They did it, because they had to do it. Emotionally they had to express themselves through their photography. But a lot of the work created today is big prints about nothing, in an edition of three, and that’s supposed to make it important? It’s manufactured, and I think people are catching on to that. It’s a lot of hype. I think the real artists will always be successful, and the here-today, gone tomorrow won’t. It’s Darwin basically, survival of the fittest and the most talented. And I think market corrections are good.”
I have for many years been wondering how some of the modern photographs that we see commanding huge prices can possibly be set along side some of the masters of the medium. More about that another day, and hats off to Peter Fetterman. I share his views.