AIPAD: The Photography Show at Pier 94

AIPAD: The Photography Show at Pier 94

Words by Diana McClure/  Photography by Anders Jones

An annual occurrence in New York City for the last decade, the AIPAD Photography Show's move from the East Side to the West Side this year was a smart choice. Shedding the heavy ominous architecture of the Park Avenue Armory, the show moved to the airy and much larger environs of Pier 94 on the Hudson River. Making space for 150 participants, including galleries, organizations and publishers from around the world, this year's event included approximately 50 new dealers, expanding the Association of Independent Photography Art Dealers impact immensely. 

The spaciousness of the new location lent itself to the curious atmosphere of discovery that art fairs can have when they are designed with an eye toward the overall experience of viewers.  However, despite the more modern atmosphere, plenty of traditional photography was on view. Magnum photographer Susan Meiselas’ straight forward black and white photographs from her series, Prince Street Girls, were presented as a portfolio of 12 silver prints by Galerie Catherine et André Hug out of Paris. The small-scale images simple presentation elegantly highlighted the intimate subject matter of personal relationships. Featuring a group of girls growing up in New York City's Little Italy, Meiselas' images offer a rare glimpse into the antics of girlhood with iconic fashion staples like plaid (presumably Catholic school) skirts, knee socks and feathered hair, as signifiers of a specific moment in time.

Another glimpse into late 20th century New York neighborhood life was represented in the work of documentary photographer Martha Cooper, presented by Steven Kasher Gallery. Cooper has published approximately twenty books, including the worldwide classic Subway Art, a collaboration with Henry Chalfant first published in 1984. She is known for one of the most highly regarded bodies of work capturing the emergence of early hip-hop and graffiti culture in New York City and several prints from that collection were on view. Impeccably printed and presented unframed and at different sizes, the photographs offer stunning views of the colorful poetic magic of early graffiti. For the uninitiated, images of graffiti art stretched across subway cars on above ground tracks and outdoor platforms, embedded in the landscape of the Bronx and elsewhere, reveal the surreal awe of what living in a city with moveable, ephemeral, mysterious art making might look like.  

Another photographer using natural light, Lise Sarfati, used the urban landscape of 2013 in the City of Los Angeles as a muse. In a series of large-scale works entitled, Oh Man, presented by Belgian and France based, La Galerie Particulière, the artist set up shop with a tripod and camera across the street from carefully selected locations, waiting for portraits to emerge. With minimalist backgrounds found in downtown Los Angeles chosen for what appears to be swaths of clean natural light and tight color palettes, Sarfati created images of what could be described as 'figures in a landscape'. Using random people as they walked through the frame for the final element in each artwork, complimentary colors in the clothing and shoes of her subjects, as well as personal style, flush out a simple, yet compelling take on portraiture.

An interesting technologically based work by Jim Campbell was presented front and center at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery. The work combined video and still photography of the Tuileries Garden, a public garden near the Louvre in Paris. Campbell, a renowned electronic light artist and former recipient of Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundation fellowships, is also an electrical engineer. The work on view included a photograph of the garden printed on plexiglass and placed in front of a panel of LED lights. A video of the garden featuring people strolling through the exact same location as the still image, often dressed in black with black umbrellas, is projected from the back, through the image, as well. The video's low resolution helps give the figures a blurry ghost-like effect, while the plexiglass diffuses the imagery. At first glance, passers by may think the random figures passing through the frame are reflections of themselves, somehow temporarily embedded in the image on screen. 

Undoubtedly, this year's Photography Show presented by AIPAD offered a delightful amount of visual adventure in the world of photography, alongside a new foray into photo books and publishing, and a full schedule of panel discussions everyday. Coupled with its presentation in a modern space, next years show should be a must see.