Photography enthusiasts will find plenty of things to do in Paris, from visiting top-notch exhibitions and going backstage at legendary photo studios to attending photography-focused special events and setting off on a photo walk armed with professional camera equipment.
Must-sees in Paris for photography fans
Photography fans are spoilt for choice in Paris, which has any number of galleries to visit – starting with the Maison Européenne de la Photographie. This venue hosts many exhibitions all year round: solo shows devoted to big-name photographers as well as retrospectives covering key movements in international photography. The Jeu de Paume (reopening scheduled for spring 2021) in the heart of the Jardin des Tuileries, which displays works by famous 20th- and 21st-century photographers from around the world, is another must-see for any photography enthusiast.
The Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation, located in the Marais district, houses the collections of Henri Cartier-Bresson, a major 20th century photographer, and his wife Martine Franck. Cartier-Bresson's prolific work is visible in temporary exhibitions, on site or outside the walls. Other important figures of French and international photography are scheduled.
Le BAL, a former dance hall transformed into a venue devoted to contemporary photography, displays images by a cross-section of photographers. Talks and debates on photography-related themes are also organized in this exhibition space. At the Maison de la Photographie Robert Doisneau, visitors can admire temporary exhibitions of work by both professional and amateur photographers, with a focus on humanist photography. Located in Bièvres in Essonne, the French Museum of Photography has an impressive collection of photographic objects and prints and presents them through major annual exhibitions.
Several places also host open-air exhibitions, such as the Hôtel de Ville and the Jardin du Luxembourg. There are free photo exhibitions on the iron railings, and the display is changed twice a year. The initiative was launched in 2000 with ‘La Terre vue du ciel’, a series of superb aerial photographs by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, and the temporary exhibitions have since become a regular feature, turning the gardens into a veritable open-air museum.
The legendary photo studio Studio Harcourt also welcomes visitors. Internationally renowned for its black and white portraits of stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Salvador Dali and Jean-Paul Gaultier, the studio is popular with photography fans, who are free to wander the corridors of this famous venue and browse the archives to admire the originals of the best-known portraits.
Without forgetting that the capital also has a large number of art galleries, some of which are very famous for their photographic exhibitions.
The art galleries of Paris
Major photography events in Paris
November is photography month in Paris, with a wide range of special events held in various parts of the city. The Salon de la Photo (virtual event in 2020) takes place at the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles in the early part of the month. This must-see photography show brings together the medium’s key players: galleries, artists, masterclass organizers and photographic equipment manufacturers. During the Paris Photo (November 11-14, 2021 at the Palais Éphémère) event, the Grand Palais turns into a vast photography gallery. The programme includes conversation cycles, giving keen photographers an opportunity to present their visions and practices. A simultaneous event, Fotofever at the Carrousel du Louvre, displays images by 250 emerging artists from 20 different countries, and is an excellent opportunity for beginners to start a photography collection.
The Photo Saint-Germain festival (January 7-23, 2021) with a trail of events in various cultural venues on the Left Bank. And, every two years, the Biennal of contemporary Arab world photography (next edition in 2021), held simultaneously in different Parisian venues, places the spotlight on contemporary photography in this part of the world.
However, there is a year-round focus on photography in Paris, not just in November. The Circulation(s) (March 6 to May 2, 2021) festival, held in the spring, highlights the work of 50 young European artists, while Paris art galleries host a number of photography exhibitions throughout the year.
Initially planned for November 2020 for a period of 30 days, the Photo Days course finally begins on December 4, 2020 for an exceptional duration of 2 months! The event celebrates photography in all its forms by offering a 100% Parisian route, punctuated by many surprises in more than 40 places in the capital: art galleries (Galerie Georges Philippe & Nathalie Vallois, La Fab., Galerie Daniel Templon, Marian Goodman Gallery…), museums (Fondation Louis Vuitton, Musée du Luxembourg…) and more unexpected places (Académie des Beaux-Arts…). The event can also be followed on Instagram @photodays.paris and on Facebook
Guided tours with a photographer in Paris
Visit Paris by having your picture taken by professional photographers, it is quite possible with the LumyMe application. By booking your shoot via the app in the best Parisian spots (Le Louvre, The Eiffel tower, Palais-Royal and the François Mitterrand library) to immortalize your most beautiful moments in the capital. You can also easily book a photograph through the platform OhMyStaff.