~ Posted by Simon Willis, November 16th 2012
This morning I was in the queue for Paris Photo, a photography fair at the Grand Palais just off the Champs-Élysées. It was a cold, misty morning, and the small person in front was wearing a black beanie, the collar of his sports jacket turned up. His light-blue jeans were too short, and his Converse were blue and pristine. Easy to imagine him, dressed this way, skipping out of a suburban house in 1950s America. Then he turned round. His face and neck were covered in blue, green and red tattoos. Through his ear lobes were circular plates of plastic, two or three inches across, one of which had a hole in the middle, so that it looked like a giant Polo mint.
He fitted in fine this year among the elegant folks who had come to buy and sell photographs under the mammoth glass and wrought-iron dome of the Grand Palais. The organisers had asked the film director David Lynch to choose his favourite pictures from the thousands that the photography galleries show at the fair. He picked 96, and each is marked by a little black sign on the wall saying "Vu par David Lynch". There's an app for the fair, which shows the pictures, and tells you where to find them. So, phone in hand, I set off on the Lynch tour. I felt it had already started in the queue.
I headed first for a photograph by Guy Tillim. It shows a beach strewn with rubbish and small stones. There's a dog in foreground, children on surfboards in the water, the odd flip-flop on the beach. Lynch's best films have a creepy mixture of privet-fenced normality and psychosexual violence. There isn't much of either in Tillim's photograph. Lynch must have just liked it.
But then things get very Lynchian indeed. Two shots by Olivier Metzger could almost be stills from a Lynch film. One shows a blue clapboard house at night. There are no lights on, and two of the downstairs windows are open. In the other, a young woman with a blank expression is on the phone. It's night. She's photographed through a window. Below the window is a neatly trimmed hedge. In Philip-Lorca diCordia's photograph "W, September 2000 #6", two expensively suited women with fine jewellery and stiff hair-dos, are having a meal with a younger man. The women have tight smiles on their faces. The man, also smiling, is clasping a glass of beer. The picture was taken in a restaurant at the top of the World Trade Centre.
Then I began to see Lynch even where there was no black label on the wall. He didn't choose Daido Moriyama's photograph of women's legs on a train, one pair slightly ajar, another pair with little white socks on its feet, and girlish shoes with a buckle. Nor did he choose Gilles Berquet's pictures of women urinating. Although perhaps that effect wasn't so much achieved by the pictures themselves as by the middle-aged American couple in front of them. The wife, in a dainty orange hat, was looking at the pictures. The husband was next to her in a tweed coat. "Shall we go for lunch?" he said.