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philippe & marion - passion: photo
Philippe et Marion, in Montreuil since 1997, opened the gallery 15 years ago when they knew nothing about selling photos or the photo industry. A brave move!
Since then the couple, former film producers, with 4 nominations at the Cannes film festival, have made great strides and today the gallery has a stellar reputation.
As well as runnng the gallery, they also create numerous projects throughout the year, exhibitions, collaborations...
They are specialised in "Anonymous Photography", a deliberate choice. Not only in the beginning did they not have the means to buy collections of famous photographers but they also liked the idea of being on the edge of the industry norms..
Fed up of always seeing the same photos circulate in auctions and other sales, they thought that at least with anonymous photos there'd be more rarity, more surprises and an endless supply.
Their bet paid off. Today they have a huge stand at 'Paris Photo', the most reputed Photo Fair in the world, they produce 3 exhibitions a year, (one of their exhibitions will be present at the famous Photo Exhibition at Arles this year) and their photos have been bought and shown in some of the most famous museums in the world.
Let's meet Philippe & Marion, a great partnership always on the lookout for their next perfect photo
Philippe & Marion
AND THEN THERE WAS LIGHT (LUMIÈRE)
Without knowing it, Philippe was destined to work with images. When he was already a film producer, he happened upon an amazing discovery.
In a family home in the mountainous region of Savoie, he found a packet of letters in a wardrobe. These letters were written over a 4-year period by his great-grandfather Gabriel Veyre, and revealed that he had, in fact, been the most trusted head cameraman for the Lumière Brothers, the inventors of cinema, and had led the most extraordinary life.
These 4 years of correspondance detailed his round-the-world trips at the end of the 19th Century, when he was sent on a mission by the Lumière Brothers to share cinema techniques and make films all over the globe.
(Vietnam, Mexico, Cuba, Japan, Canada, China...)
Philippe was absolutely flabbergasted! What a story!
Thanks to the minute detail of the letters, Philips set off to retrace his great-grandfather's steps and go to every country to find out the story of his ancestor, meeting historians and researchers.
In Japan he met the famous film director and intellectual Yoshida in the hope of making a film about Gabriel's life.
Yoshida called the film "La Lumière des Roses". The film was never made but Philippe kept the title and we know now how he used it to honour his family member..
Philippe et Marion (P&M) then wrote 2 books on the incredible life of this genious Gabriel Veyre, and with Yoshida (with whom they created a great friendship) they eventually made a film, a documentary, about his experiences all over the world.
What an amazing tale!
Philippe's first ever photo 'crush' was sold for 1600€ during his first ever exhibition "Amateur & Anonymous" , and was sold on 10 minutes later for 4800€!
AN EYE FOR THE WEIRD AND WONDERFUL
After having produced films for 15 years, P&M decided that that life was no longer for them. In spite of their nominations and a certain success, they were sick of losing money and handling all the stress that came with making feature-length films.
A friend of theirs suggested they become photo dealers.
They knew nothing about it, but hey, why not?!
P: "We'd lost a kind of naivety when producing films, something we found again with photography."
Their gallery "Lumière des Roses" was born and they organised their first exhibition "Amateur and Anonymous".
Philippe's 'star' photo, his favourite, was of an elephant being trained in the middle of the street. Having no clue on market prices they put it up for 1600€. It was sold straightaway to a collector who took 15 seconds to decide. 10 minutes later another collector wanted it but it was too late. He then followed the buyer outside and offered him 3 times the price for it.
He sold it!
The rest of the exhibition was also sold out and Philippe was reassured as to his eye for the right kind of photo and their future in the industry.
PARIS PHOTO FAIR - THE HOLY GRAIL
When P&M first thought about getting a stand at the Paris Photo Fair the cost was too high so they decided against it. But as luck would have it, the organisers rang them back a few weeks later and offered them a tiny stand that was left. They paid in 3 installements and success...they managed to reimburse their costs at the end of the event.
The real adventure in photography had begun, this was in 2006.
This year, 2019, will be their 14th participation in the most reputed Photo Fair in the world and despite their success and the excitement of being there, it's a huge workload
P: "For Paris Photo you have to be on your best game, what we do is a micro-niche. We come with 50 photos, so to be ready every year just for Paris Photo, we have to find more or less one amazing photo per week. Every year afterwards, I have the blues knowing it's over and that I have to start all over again..."
P&M have had some of their best success stories at Paris Photo. Following the Fair, their photos have been bought and shown at the British Museum, MOMA, the Metropolitan Museum, the Musée d'Orsay...
For example, a series taken in England in 1853, only 15 years after the invention of photography. A photographer takes inventory photos of furniture from beautiful aristocratic manor houses. He starts playing with the mirrors, taking auto-portaits then leaving just his camera in shot.
These are extraordinary photos. They are in the Museum of Modern Art ( MOMA) in New York and one of the photos made the cover of one of their official coffee-table catalogues.
This must have been a fantastic feeling for the gallery and definitely a testament to Philippe's eye for winning photos.
THE KEY TO SUCCESS?
While talking with P&M you realise that they keep their feet on the ground, they stay humble, still doubt their ability and are surprised when things go well.
So how do you become successful in this industry?
Beyond the fact that you have to get up at the crack of dawn to go to the flea markets and sales, sometimes in the dark and the pouring rain (all across Europe) to maybe find 1 photo, and having a good eye, the 2 gallery owners also believe there's a lot of luck involved with what does and doesn't work.
Their exhibition "La Zone", which will be at Arles this year, attracted 4500 visitors to their Montreuil gallery and got press coverage on France Inter, France Culture, Le Parisien, Les Beaux Arts Magazine, Libération...
Even though the exhibition represented 10 years of work, Philippe didn't think it would be successful
P: "I thought, who is going to come and see a thing about the shanty towns of Paris? We didnt think it would be a success, not for a minute..."
M: "Sometimes it depends on the current social climate whether something works or not, a combination of circumstances...we've always loved social commentary photography, the photos tell the story."
Personally I think their complicity and their real passion for photography are the reasons that it works. You see their eyes light up when they talk about their job and their future projects, surely a motivating factor towards garnerning interest.
Their exhibition, suppported by "Enlarge Your Paris", will be at Arles this year
P: "In this job you never get bored, it's never the same thing, you're never in a routine.
You're navigating in the unknown, not knowing what you're looking for, or what you'll find.
We're hugely curious and as long as we stay curious, we'll continue creating and telling stories.
If you pass by the gallery, there is something for everyone in both taste and price. You can find a photo for 20€ right up to much more expensive collections.
There are thousands of photos that Philippe has unearthed so you're sure to find something you like.
You can go during opening hours or make an appointment where you can chat with Philippe, who'll help you find that special photo, the one that you've been looking for, the one you didn't know you'd fall in love with.
In the future, P&M are going to continue to create surprising exhibitions, collaborate with young, dynamic historians and curators and create partnerships with other institutions and cultural events (they have already created several projects with the arthouse Montreuil cinema Le Méliès linked to their exhibitions -Retrospective Kiju Yoshida, conference on voyeurism linked to their exhibition "J'aime regarder les Filles", projection around La Zone...).
Often their projects are born out of encounters with other passionate people where all the elements come together at the right time to align with the vision of the gallery
A vision with 2 pairs of eyes, a balance between the mildness of Marion and the vigour of Philippe.
You can subscribe to their newsletter for all their news, a monthly selection of inspired photos and access to the sale of 7 exclusive photos every month.
Philippe is a huge fan of flyfishing and goes every year to Scotland for 3 weeks to fish trout, high up in the Lochs and he makes this comparison with his profession
"When you're waiting in 0°C in the Lochs for hours on end, you have to be extremely patient before you get a bite.
It's the same with photos, you have to be prepared to
remain empty-handed for a long time before you come across a great catch!"
12-14 Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau
Open Wednesday to Saturday
14h00 to 19h00
and by appointment
Closed on public holidays
Tel : +33 (0) 1 48 70 02 02