Photo Basel: Reinventing History

Photo Basel: Reinventing History

Coinciding with Art Basel, photo basel, Switzerland’s first fair dedicated to photography, returns for its fourth edition. Offering a platform for international practitioners, this year’s exhibitors include Aperture Foundation, New York; Bildhalle, Zürich; Dorothée Nilsson Gallery, Berlin and Esther Woerdehoff, Paris. Artists featured this year investigate the boundaries between truth and fiction, examining the contemporary moment by referencing past styles.

Featured above is work by Eiji Ohashi, who is represented by &co119 gallery, Paris. The Roadside Lights series documents the eerie, captivating quality of vending machines in Japan. Often presented against sublime natural backdrops, the images offer dialogues about commercialisation, reflecting on the ever-distancing relationship between societies and the wilderness.

Further engaging with themes of nature are Ellen Kooi (b. 1962) and Julia Fullerton-Batten (b. 1970) – both previously featured in Aesthetica – who are represented by camara oscura galeria de arte, Madrid. They both reference the history of art through stylised work, and Kooi’s carefully constructed images –  which echo the work of Flemish painters such as Vermeer and Brueghel –  evoke a sense of mythical realism, challenging perceptions of the world by playing with fantasy and reality. In a similar way, Fullerton-Batten’s images are drenched in theatrical suspense. Mixing fine art with cinematic imagery, the photographer produce works overflowing with narrative possibilities, often with the figure of a woman as the focal point.

Comparably, Finnish photographer Elina Brotherus (b. 1972), represented by the same gallery, often uses self-portraiture to reflect on personal narratives. Combining the past with styles from historical art, the artist forges connections between her experiences and the trajectory of the practice.

Meanwhile, 2018’s special exhibition, entitled Master Cabinet: Pivotal Moments, also tracks the chronology of photography. Bringing together key 20th century works, it presents vintage prints from artists including Robert Capa (1913-1954), Aaron Siskind (1903-1991), Stuart Franklin (b. 1956) and Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966). The collection documents key social, political and cultural moments in history, and in doing so demonstrates the ever-expanding nature of the medium.

Translating this ethos into an initiative, Photo basel hosts the 2018 Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Award, which celebrates the importance of print to the evolution of photography. The format offers a unique narrative experience, and the 35 shortlisted books – drawn from over 1000 submissions from around the world – illustrate the diverse and productive nature of the format.

Until 17 June. Find out more here.

1. Kutchan-town, Hokkaido, April 2017 ©Eiji Ohashi / courtesy Galerie &co119