In Arts + Entertainment

The Best Photography Galleries In Paris

Paris is home to some of the most-visited museums and galleries in the world. For photography aficionados, it’s a dream destination. The photographic form originated in France after all, and French photographers played a significant role in the early progression of the art form — take Louis Daguerre, Eugène Atget and Henri Cartier-Bresson as just a few examples.

Photography continues to play a huge part in the country’s artistic identity, and in Paris, you’ll find many galleries dedicated to the exhibition of photography. The annual fair, Paris Photo, draws massive international crowds and coincides with Offprint and Polycopies, both fairs that celebrate the photography publishing industry. During a stay in the city, check what’s on at Centre Georges Pompidou and Palais de Tokyo — both galleries have an excellent exhibition programme with plenty of photography highlights. And while the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay are must-sees for all art lovers, make sure not to miss the galleries to showcasing the best in photography. From the renowned Jeu de Paume, to Le Bal across town near Montmartre, we’ve rounded up some of the best in the city to get you inspired.

Le Bal

Down an alleyway in the 18th arrondissement, this arts space is dedicated to the contemporary image in all its forms. In its former life in the roaring 1920s as Chez Isis, the space was home to a rowdy dancehall. It then became a horse-betting shop for a while, and was reborn in 2010 as Le Bal. Exhibitions tend to focus on social impact, and how to explore different approaches to reality through art. Make sure to catch artist Batia Suter’s current exhibition, created in situ for the space, with a collection of random images in a new and intuitive order. There’s also an excellent educational programme, bookstore and the resident Café Otto.

Jeu de Paume

Found in the Jardin des Tuileries is the iconic Jeu de Paume. The 19th-century building was originally built to house tennis courts — hence the name jeu de paume, which translates to ‘palm game’, a precursor of the tennis game that we know today. Exhibitions promote all kinds of imagery from the 20th and 21st centuries, including photography, cinema, video, installation works and online art. The exhibition programme displays the work of both emerging and well-known artists (think along the likes of Garry Winogrand, Richard Avedon and Diane Arbus), and currently there are several exhibitions on display right through the Parisian summer.

Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson – Paul Strand, Mexique 1932-1934, exhibition Photo: Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson

This photography foundation is one of the most prestigious in Paris, and is of course, named after one of most important names in the history of photography. Henri Cartier-Bresson is known for pioneering street photography, and for his view to capture “the decisive moment.” The foundation is focused on preserving the legacy of Cartier-Bresson and his wife, photographer Martine Franck, plus exhibiting the work of other artists, too. There’s an upcoming move to a new Le Marais location in October, and on show now is an exhibition dedicated to American photographer Robert Adams and his environmental series Our Lives and Our Children.

Maison européenne de la Photographie

Also known as MEP, the Maison européenne de la Photographie is a top contemporary photography space in the heart of the city, which is complete with a library space. Exhibiting artists have included Larry Clark, Annie Leibovitz, Robert Delphire and Martin Parr, to name just a few. Currently two exhibitions are on view: the work of Spanish photographer Nicolás Combarro, and a retrospective show of photojournalist James Nachtwey.

Polka Galerie

Focused on photo reportage, Polka Galerie features the work of photographers who capture the world through a social or political lens. On show now is the first exhibition by a young French duo showcasing Budapest courtyards, plus a relatively unknown series by Italian master Mario Giacomelli. Previously, shows have also explored the work of key modern photographers such as William Klein, Joel Meyerowitz and Sebastião Salgado. The gallery publishes a well-known quarterly magazine, which delves into the photographic form.

Galerie VU’

In what was once a private mansion, Galerie VU’ is an extension of Agence VU (located in the same premises). The gallery displays the work of politically engaged photographers represented by the agency such as Richard Dumas, Vanessa Winship, Ed van der Elsken and Michel Houellebecq. The gallery aims to highlight the diversity of modern photography, and works tend to follow two approaches to the photographic form — the autographical and intimate, and the conceptual.

Les Douches

Another gallery named after its building’s former purpose, Les Douches (which translates to ‘the showers’), was previously a public bathhouse. Today, it exhibits documentary photography and experimental works that blur and push the boundaries of the medium. It’s located near the Canal Saint Martin, and represents major photographers such as Sabine Weiss, Vivian Maier, Tom Arndt and Berenice Abbott.

Published 08 June, 2018