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Suzy Menkes

Vogue International Editor Suzy Menkes is the best-known fashion journalist in the world. After 25 years commenting on fashion for the International Herald Tribune (rebranded recently as The International New York Times), Suzy Menkes now writes exclusively for Vogue online, covering fashion worldwide.

Through the eye and the lens of a woman

At ‘Paris Photo’ art fair I found women were the subject at many a gallery

14 Ноября 2014

Embrace, 1982. Robert Mapplethorpe. Silver gelatin print, 50.8 x 40.6 cm (20 x 16 in) RMP 1258 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with Permission. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Paris/Salzburg
Embrace, 1982. Robert Mapplethorpe. Silver gelatin print, 50.8 x 40.6 cm (20 x 16 in) RMP 1258 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with Permission. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Paris/Salzburg
A child walking across a bare-wood floor, a woman smiling like an angel under a river of long hair – or another graceful female, languid on a stone garden bench, her dress flowing like water. Those were just three images photographed by Robert Mapplethorpe in a tranquil gentility.

Mapplethorpe! He of the violently sexual (and homosexual) imagery? Powerful but discomforting, especially for women.

Yet it is a woman – the French actress Isabelle Huppert – who selected these unlikely images for Thaddaeus Ropac. The modern art gallery with worldwide connections, showing for the first time at the Paris Photo art fair, dominates the annual French photography exhibition at the Paris Grand Palais (until November 16).
Lindsay Key, 1985. Robert Mapplethorpe. Silver gelatin print, 40.6 x 50.8 cm (16 x 20 in). RMP 1350 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with Permission. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Paris/Salzburg
Lindsay Key, 1985. Robert Mapplethorpe. Silver gelatin print, 40.6 x 50.8 cm (16 x 20 in). RMP 1350 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with Permission. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Paris/Salzburg
Isabelle Huppert’s choice of photographs seems astounding – especially for an actress with a strong, outspoken, feminist character. It is as though she had found a new and gentle side, as yet unseen, to Mapplethorpe.
Thaddeus Ropak with French actress Isabelle Huppert at a dinner in Maxim’s in Paris to celebrate her curation of Robert Mapplethorpe’s work for Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac at Paris Photo
Thaddeus Ropak with French actress Isabelle Huppert at a dinner in Maxim’s in Paris to celebrate her curation of Robert Mapplethorpe’s work for Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac at Paris Photo
“He was brutal, but I think of him as a poet,” said Huppert at an event in her honour at Maxim’s in Paris. The French film star whose expressive face has been taken by many famous photographers, said that she discovered the depth of Mapplethorpe’s work only when filming on location at the Cartier Foundation in Paris. Subsequently, she went through his work for the gallery project and found the children and animals, the abstract scenery and the portraits that illuminated her choices.
Lydia Cheng, 1984. Robert Mapplethorpe. Silver gelatin print, 40.6 x 50.8 cm (16 x 20 in) RMP 1333 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with Permission. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Paris/Salzburg
Lydia Cheng, 1984. Robert Mapplethorpe. Silver gelatin print, 40.6 x 50.8 cm (16 x 20 in) RMP 1333 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with Permission. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Paris/Salzburg
The exhibition is part of a policy by the Mapplethorpe trust to involve different curatorial “eyes”. Not all Huppert’s visions of figures and flesh had banished sexuality, but there was far less than might have been expected.
 
“It’s his softer side because, for her, photos are poems,” said Ropac. “Mapplethorpe is so known for his hard edge and sexual imagery, but there are also the voluptuous and sensual.”
из
Phillip Prioleau, 1979. Robert Mapplethorpe. Silver gelatin print, 40.6 x 50.8 cm (16 x 20 in) RMP 1280 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with Permission. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Paris/Salzburg

Phillip Prioleau, 1979. Robert Mapplethorpe. Silver gelatin print, 40.6 x 50.8 cm (16 x 20 in) RMP 1280 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with Permission. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Paris/Salzburg

Mountain, 1983. Robert Mapplethorpe. Silver gelatine print, 40.6 x 50.8 cm (16 x 20 in) RMP 1325 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with Permission. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Paris/Salzburg

Mountain, 1983. Robert Mapplethorpe. Silver gelatine print, 40.6 x 50.8 cm (16 x 20 in) RMP 1325 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with Permission. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Paris/Salzburg

Julian Anson, 1979. Robert Mapplethorpe. Silver gelatin print, 40.6 x 50.8 cm (16 x 20 in)RMP 1275 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with Permission. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Paris/Salzburg

Julian Anson, 1979. Robert Mapplethorpe. Silver gelatin print, 40.6 x 50.8 cm (16 x 20 in)RMP 1275 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with Permission. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Paris/Salzburg

Carol Overby, 1979. Robert Mapplethorpe. Silver gelatin print, 40.6 x 50.8 cm (16 x 20 in) RMP 1281 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with Permission. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Paris/Salzburg

Carol Overby, 1979. Robert Mapplethorpe. Silver gelatin print, 40.6 x 50.8 cm (16 x 20 in) RMP 1281 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with Permission. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Paris/Salzburg

Carol Overby, 1979. Robert Mapplethorpe. Silver gelatin print, 40.6 x 50.8 cm (16 x 20 in) RMP 1282 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with Permission. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Paris/Salzburg

Carol Overby, 1979. Robert Mapplethorpe. Silver gelatin print, 40.6 x 50.8 cm (16 x 20 in) RMP 1282 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with Permission. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Paris/Salzburg

Calla Lilies, 1983. Robert Mapplethorpe. Silver gelatin print, 40.6 x 50.8 cm (16 x 20 in) RMP1321 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with Permission. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Paris/Salzburg

Calla Lilies, 1983. Robert Mapplethorpe. Silver gelatin print, 40.6 x 50.8 cm (16 x 20 in) RMP1321 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with Permission. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Paris/Salzburg

Rowboat, 1983. Robert Mapplethorpe. Silver gelatin print, 40.6 x 50.8 cm (16 x 20 in). RMP 1324 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with Permission. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Paris/Salzburg

Rowboat, 1983. Robert Mapplethorpe. Silver gelatin print, 40.6 x 50.8 cm (16 x 20 in). RMP 1324 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with Permission. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Paris/Salzburg

Lisa Lyon, 1982. Robert Mapplethorpe. Silver gelatin print, 40.6 x 50.8 cm (16 x 20 in). RMP 1307 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with Permission. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Paris/Salzburg

Lisa Lyon, 1982. Robert Mapplethorpe. Silver gelatin print, 40.6 x 50.8 cm (16 x 20 in). RMP 1307 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with Permission. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Paris/Salzburg

Patti Smith, 1979. Robert Mapplethorpe. Silver gelatin print, 40.6 x 50.8 cm (16 x 20 in). RMP 1278 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with Permission. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Paris/Salzburg

Patti Smith, 1979. Robert Mapplethorpe. Silver gelatin print, 40.6 x 50.8 cm (16 x 20 in). RMP 1278 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with Permission. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Paris/Salzburg

I would not pretend to be a critic of photography, but this opening encounter at Paris Photo made me think about women – both how they are portrayed by male photographers and with themselves behind the lens.

I was struck by the sweet grace of figures in a misty, disappearing landscape by Danish photographer Astrid Kruse Jensen at the Martin Asbæk Gallery. The photographer’s new book Beauty Will Always Be Disturbed reflected the effect of using outdated Polaroid film creating a green tinge.
Photographer Astrid Kruse Jensen new book, Beauty Will Always Be Disturbed. Martin Asbæk Gallery
Photographer Astrid Kruse Jensen new book, Beauty Will Always Be Disturbed. Martin Asbæk Gallery
At the other end of the scale, the vivid violence of figures in trans-sexual clubs in Istanbul were both compelling and perhaps unexpected from a female photographer. Şükran Moral’s presentation of the underbelly of the city from the Galeri Zilberman in Istanbul was so very far from the cliché  of Turkey’s temples and towers.
 
Take a 100-degree turn and there were naked arms in pictures of aged tattooed skin, taken in the Philippines. Jake Verzosa’s digital black-and-white prints, brought together as The Last Tattooed Women of Kalinga at Silverlens, showed women whose skin seemed to be patterned as if by a lacy sweater.
The Last Tattooed Women of Kalinga by Jake Verzosa at Silverlens
The Last Tattooed Women of Kalinga by Jake Verzosa at Silverlens
So many female nudes (too many for my taste) drew me towards images of fashion, where clothes, hair and make-up seemed like armour. I am thinking of the famous Annie Leibovitz double portrait of Jackie and Joan Collins in Los Angeles in 1987 – and symbolic of that over-the-top fashion decade.
 
But the great surprise of my Paris Photo excursion was up the wrought iron staircase towards the great glass and wrought-iron dome, where I found a cache of Indian images from 1869 to 1910 from the Alkazi Foundation for the Arts in New Delhi. Curated by Rahaab Allana, supported by JP Morgan and selected from a cache of 90,000 photos, this Indian exhibition introduced me to a new genre: the oil-painted photograph.
Hand-painted platinum and watercolour print of Princess Abida Sultan of Bhopal (1913 to 2003). Photograph, signed by MK Tamkin of Bhopal and dated November 1921. Indian images from from Alkazi Foundation for the Arts in New Delhi
Hand-painted platinum and watercolour print of Princess Abida Sultan of Bhopal (1913 to 2003). Photograph, signed by MK Tamkin of Bhopal and dated November 1921. Indian images from from Alkazi Foundation for the Arts in New Delhi
Using oil paint over gelatine silver print, photographers, often unknown, created a hybrid of photography and painting. In this collection of many grandiose maharajas, I found Princess Abida Sultan of Bhopal, her photographed face surrounded by rivulets of jewels on headdress painted in water colours. Its significance was that in the platinum photographed face, the character and determination of the highborn young women shone through.

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