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Paris Photo Comes To Paramount Studios In Los Angeles

Leila Dee Dougan |
April 30, 2013 | 1:47 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

The Wrinkles of the City, Los Angeles, Lovers on the roof, USA, 2012. Courtesy of Paris Photo.
The Wrinkles of the City, Los Angeles, Lovers on the roof, USA, 2012. Courtesy of Paris Photo.
The billboard-sized black and white portrait of an elderly man consumes the face brick wall of a three-storey building along Glendale Boulevard. Identified only as 'Carl', he stares from the photograph, one eye overshadowed by his heavy brow while the other peers out from skin creased and puffy with age. A bushy grey beard surrounds his open mouth and snakes down to the grungy Los Angeles pavement.

Carl's portrait was taken by Stefan Kloo - otherwise known as JR - a street photographer whose subjects consist of ordinary people from a range of different communities. He enlarges the images and places them in public spaces around the world. From 12-story buildings in Downtown L.A. to winding trains in Kenya, to the slums of France and Brazil's favelas. City streets have become his permanent gallery.

Three neatly framed color photographs of JR's public works, part of a series titled "The Wrinkles of the City," were exhibited at Paris Photo, held at Paramount Pictures Studios in Hollywood. The prestigious fair, usually held at the Grand Palais in France, has been running for 17 years and includes over 70 international galleries from 14 different countries. This year, the American edition of the exhibition was launched in Los Angeles for the first time, with galleries and publishers setting up shop in the Sound Stages and New York backlot of the century-old Paramount Pictures. 

The venue, which usually sees industry professionals and tour groups, was swarming with moms in wide-brimmed summer hats pushing strollers between exhibition venues on Washington Square. Local hipsters, all sunglasses and cherry-lips, sipped champagne on the Lower East Side, interspersed by young teens who lined up at gourmet food trucks before enjoyed their melts and milkshakes on the steps of Greenwich Village buildings. 

Cannons that would normally be slung around shoulders were clicking constantly by newly-inspired photographers who snapped away happily at street scenes and the iconic Paramount Studio water tank. 

The thousands of images that spread between the backlot and three sound stages became overwhelming, requiring more than the few glances each visitor could spare in order to get through the vast amount of award-winning photographs. Eddie Adam's 1968 "Vietnam Atrocities-Execution in Saigon" stood alongside Joe Rosenthal's 1945 "Raising the Flag on Iowa Jima." Attendees swarmed around Malian photographer Seydou Keita's portraits before heading to the next soundstage to view Andy Warhol's "Art Car No.4." Locals rediscovered their city through the color images of JR's public works in Stage 5. One couple squinted at his work while arguing about the exact street corners in Downtown LA where the original blown-up photographs stood, vowing to seek them out on their daily commute to work. 

While the few photographs of "The Wrinkles of the City" did little justice to the majesty of JR's work, the Paris Photo exhibition provided renewed respect and curiosity for the street photographer and his public profiles, often ignored, which are plastered onto local buildings and rooftops. Finding one particular artist became a visually stimulating treasure hunt at Paramount Pictures. However, the honor of being surrounded by the most celebrated contemporary and historical images far outweighed aching feet by the end of the day.

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