The Eyes relationship with Paris Photo began as a series of curated talks at the face-to-face event and has developed into a commercial presence with a stand at the heart of the show. From thought leadership to image building, networking to direct sales, we highlight the role the world’s leading international photography fair has played in The Eyes success and growth.
The past decade has seen a boom in the publication of photobooks by photographers and independent publishers which offer a lasting testimony to the art form, and an absorbing way to experience the stories and creative concepts behind the work.
Among the leading French exponents is Paris-based The Eyes Publishing, which produces monographs, artists’ objects and essays focusing on the image and photography in addition to their flagship publication, The Eyes, an annual bilingual magazine.
“Our mission as a publisher is to bridge the gap between the public and the artist” explained Associate Director, Véronique Prugnaud.
“We undertake original concepts in collaboration with artists who seem for us to have a strong artistic and meaningful proposal – concepts which are seldom documented, which seem important for us to expose. We also partner with artists in the bookmaking process which has its own role in the field of photography.”
Despite growing interest in the genre, the business model for photobooks is fragile, said Véronique. “Production is expensive, and we have to control our costs to allow us to propose affordable prices. We have to go through intermediaries in order to be distributed in bookshops and museums. Direct sales are less frequent.”
Which is where live events like RX’s Paris Photo, the world’s most important fair for photography, play a crucial role.
“Paris Photo allows us to meet new French and international buyers and to sell directly,” explained Véronique. “The cost of the stand is significant, but it is worth it for us publishers as well as for our artists in economic terms as well as in terms of image building and making connections.”
A platform for conversation
Established in 1997 and held every year in the heart of the French capital, Paris Photo’s mission is to develop and support photographic creation by promoting the work of gallery owners, publishers and artists. Leading galleries showcase historical and contemporary artworks from modern masters to young and trending new talents. Specialized publishers and art book dealers present unique and rare editions, as well as book launches and signature sessions with many of today’s most renowned artists.
The Eyes has been exhibiting at Paris Photo for the past two editions, but its formal partnership with the live event goes back to 2017 when it presented the first in its now annual series of ‘Artists Talks’ curated by the publisher.
“I had previously worked at Paris Photo, so I knew the fair well when I spoke with Christophe Wiesner, former artistic director of Paris Photo, about staging a series of short conversations with artists focused on the photobook” explained Véronique. “It was together that we imagined the first ‘Artists Talks’. For The Eyes it was a great opportunity to be associated with the programming of the world’s leading photo fair. It proved to be a very enriching experience.”
Curated and presented by the team at The Eyes each year since, the Artist Talks put into perspective the artist’s relationship with the book in the artistic practice, the editorial approach and production. In an intimate and friendly atmosphere, each artist shares with the public their experience with their most recent monograph in a 10-minute format followed by a Q&A with the audience.
Gallery to the world
By 2021, The Eyes felt that their catalogue was rich enough in terms of editorial proposals, and the company mature and solid enough to have a presence on the exhibit floor.
“It was an incredible experience, beyond our expectations,” revealed Véronique. “Our stand was always full, the public was very curious about our publications, and the encounters were rich and intense. We thought we would only amortise the cost of the stand, but in fact we doubled our projected turnover that year. This was unhoped for and impossible to achieve elsewhere.”
Paris Photo celebrated its 25th anniversary edition at the Grand Palais Ephémère from 10 to 13 November 2022 in the company of 184 galleries and publishers from all over the world, and over 61,000 professional buyers, collectors and enthusiasts, including personalities from the worlds of culture, fashion, entertainment and politics.
The Eyes were present on a 10m2 stand in the Publishing sector, where buyers were once again invited to discover their latest photobooks and new launches. The Eyes artists also took part in signing sessions, and once again shared insights into the creative process at their inspiring programme of Artist Talks by The Eyes. Among the 36 featured artists were Guillaume Herbaut, Seba Kurtis, Laia Abril, Martin Parr, Nigel Shaffran, Raymond Meeks and Kourtney Roy. So productive was the business, that The Eyes are planning to participate again in 2023.
“Paris Photo has contributed hand-in-hand to The Eyes’ development and success for nearly 10 years” said Florence Bourgeois, Director of Paris Photo. “In fact, our relationship started before 2017 with an advertising exchange, before our programming collaboration on The Artists Talks and most recently The Eyes publishing stand in the book sector and participation in our sector-wide artist signature programme. We can’t wait to welcome them back in 2023.”
Reflecting on the overall success of the 2022 event, Florence said:
"We were extremely pleased with the massive return of international institutions and collectors, particularly from the Americas and Asia, for whom Paris Photo is a key event for the photography market. Exchanges were lively, discoveries were numerous at the fair, projects for the future were materialized, and sales by all our exhibitors, galleries and publishers, were massive."
For those unable to attend the fair in person, Paris Photo created an Online Viewing Room for the first time (now closed), enabling the public to remotely discover new talents, browse curator choices, and acquire artworks and photobooks. The Eyes full programme of Artists Talks remains available online to view on demand.