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French Institute Alliance Francaise (FIAF) Presents Peter Knapp: La passion des images
Model, Françoise Fabian. 1970. Photo by Peter Knapp. © Gamma

NEW YORK.-The French Institute Alliance Française presents Peter Knapp: La Passion des images an exhibition of photographs by the versatile graphic designer and photographer Peter Knapp, on view May 8 - June 4, 2008. Curated by Gabriel Bauret, this exhibition comes directly from La Maison Européenne de la Photographie (MEP) in Paris where it was on exhibit mid-January through March of this year.

La Passion des images retraces Knapp’s fascinating journey through the fashion media that shaped his oeuvre. The exhibit seeks to uncover the humanity found across Knapp’s ground-breaking career, both personally and professionally and is based on curator Gabriel Bauret's new book, Peter Knapp , published by Les Éditions du Chêne (Paris, 2008).

Peter Knapp was born in 1932 in Bäretswil, Switzerland. He studied graphic design in Zurich and painting, at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. At age 25, he landed a position as artistic director of the famous Parisian department store Les Galeries Lafayette where he was in charge of advertising and window displays. Later, Hélène Lazareff, the founder of Elle magazine, first hired him as editor at Le Nouveau Femina and again, in 1959, at Elle as artistic director. At Elle , he worked with some of the biggest names in fashion photography, such as Jeanloup Sieff, Sarah Moon, and Olivier Toscani, as well as taking many of its high fashion photographs himself.

The strength of his fashion photographs for designers such as Courrèges, Unagaro, Lagerfeld, Yves Saint-Laurent, Montana, and Mugler relied upon the quality of his personal interaction with his models. He has had a great influence on fashion photography; according to critic Annie Le Brun:

"Thanks to him, for the first time, fashion showed how the body could appear rather than two or three ways to make it emphatically disappear. Thanks to him, for the first time, women saw a body emerging which was their own before becoming something else."

As Knapp brilliantly showcased the works of celebrated photographers in the pages of Elle , he was simultaneously crafting a personal oeuvre of photographs. Whether it be painting, filmmaking, graphic design, or photography, Knapp's taste for experimentation has always been pronounced. He innovated techniques for creating images such as using 16 mm film for photographs; and he was innovative exhibiting his photographs; Peter Knapp was one of the first artists to display large color photographs in galleries, at a time when most photographers were working in the more traditional format of black and white.

"We are so happy to be bringing this exhibit from Paris," exclaims Tristan de Terves FIAF Gallery Director,"Peter Knapp has a passion for the human image and which made his reputation in the fashion world. One-third of this show represents his career in fashion. The larger part of the exhibit seeks to illustrate how that passion evolved in his more personal work." Indeed, Peter Knapp: La Passion des images includes black-and-white fashion shots illustrating his fashion career from the 60s - 80s, a video (created for this exhibit) of his color fashion shots from the 70s & 80s and about 20 photos of his personal works dating from the 60s to the present./p>

"My vision for the FIAF Gallery is that it become recognized and known for its reputation of excellence in photography," explains de Terves, who founded (in 2005) and ran, Wanted Paris, a gallery concentrating on contemporary photography in Le Marais, the 3rd arrondissement of Paris, until taking the post of FIAF Gallery Director the beginning of this year.

Using his background in economics, publishing, and high-tech along with his passion for photography, de Terves breached the daunting stronghold of the contemporary photography market in France by creating Wanted Paris. This was the first brick-and-mortar gallery in France to offer an on-line web-gallery with a global outlook. Wanted Paris was an innovator in making high quality contemporary art photography, by established and new artists, affordable and accessible to all art lovers.

According to de Terves, "I am not trying to recreate Wanted Paris' commercial success here at FIAF; we are a non-profit organization, a cultural center interested in creating a dialogue among artists. With that in mind, I do not want to be locked into presenting only artists from France; I'm interested in presenting Americans as well. There is a multitude of possibilities--such as an exhibit of French and American photographers who work with similar themes. As New York's French cultural center, FIAF is as much New Yorkais as it is Français. As New Yorkers, we want to take advantage of this great opportunity to open the dialogue to a global perspective."

In the case of Peter Knapp, this means presenting a Swiss-born artist's successful exhibit from Paris at FIAF. In the near future, de Terves will be scouting some of France's most prestigious photo festivals, Les rencontres d'Arles, Visa pour l'image, and Paris Photo for new talents to introduce to New York. But he will also be looking to forge partnerships with American organizations such as ICP, Aperture, and PS1 to present photographers from around the world in order to foster a cross-cultural dialogue through images.

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