<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" alt="fbpx" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=473714806349872&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
View Gallery 5 Photos
Reading Time: 3 minutes

“Checking up on one another and each other’s mental health is something we can all keep for the future”

Simon Baker is regarded by many as one of the leading curators of contemporary photography in Europe. A curator, writer and educator, Baker is currently director of the Maison Européenne de la photographie (MEP), a position he has held since April 2018.

Formerly, he was senior curator of international art at the Tate, where he joined as the institution’s first photography curator in 2009, and was instrumental in building its collection of photography. An expert in photobooks, with a special interest in Japanese photography, Baker has worked with countless influential artists including Coco Capitán, Daido Moriyama, Mari Katayama, Boris Mikhailov, and Taryn Simon.

Here, Baker shares his reflections on the year just gone.

© Marguerite Bornhauser.

“Checking up on one another and each other’s mental health is something we can all keep for the future”

Simon Baker is regarded by many people as one of the leading curators of contemporary photography in Europe. A curator, writer and educator, Baker is currently director of the Maison Européenne de la photographie (MEP), a position he has held since April 2018.

Formerly, he was senior curator of international art at the Tate, where he joined as the institution’s first photography curator in 2009, and was instrumental in building its collection of photography. An expert in photobooks, with a special interest in Japanese photography, Baker has worked with countless influential artists including Coco Capitán, Daido Moriyama, Mari Katayama, Boris Mikhailov, and Taryn Simon.

Here, Baker shares his reflections on the year just gone.

© Marguerite Bornhauser.

I spent a lot of 2020 inside. I spent the first lockdown in London,  and was there for three months. I came back to Paris as soon as it looked as though we could reopen the MEP.

Working from home, or ‘teletravaille’ in French, was a new concept for most of my team, but they adapted brilliantly. We have decided to keep the right to work from home for everyone who wants to, even after the pandemic.

This year, the MEP acquired the Self Publish Be Happy (SPBH) book collection: over 3000 of the most important contemporary photobooks, artists’ books and zines. This has re-energised the MEP library, which was closed for a long time and urgently needed a reboot.

Personally, what I have missed the most this year are the fairs and festivals. A year in photography without festivals like Arles and Paris Photo meant missing both the chance to catch up with people I know, and all the chance encounters with new and interesting people, and discovering new work.

I did discover the work of Valeria Cherchi, and I fell in love with her book Some of You Killed Luisa. It’s brilliant, very moving, and I read every word as if it was a detective novel. It’s really at the limit of how photography can be used to tell a story, in this case a true one.

Mari Katayama's exhibition at Kyotographie festival in September 2020, curated by Simon Baker.
Batia Suter at Festival Images Vevey: Simon Baker's favourite event of 2020. ©Laetitia Gessler.
Valeria Cherchi's Some of You Killed Louisa, published by The Eriskay Collection was Simon Bakers favourite discovery of 2020.
Penelope Umbrico at Festival Images Vevey: Simon Baker's favourite festival of 2020. "It actually happened!" he says. © Emilien Itim.

A highlight of 2020 was Festival Images Vevey. It actually happened! Vevey is a magic place. Two days by the lake, many amazing exhibitions and some of the best, most positive people in the photography world. 

I am very sad not to have been able to go to the Kyotographie festival in Japan. I curated a show there for Mari Katayama, which we will bring to MEP next year, but it was very frustrating and painful for me not to be there with her.

Although I do not have the right, I actually feel homesick for Japan. Right now we have an amazing exhibition at MEP, Moriyama and Tomatsu: TOKYO and I find myself going up to the galleries and imagining being in Shinjuku at 3am with my friends for shochu and karaoke.

Zoom and Googlemeet have been revelations for me. We need to think about our personal responsibility for the environment, and if one good thing has come out of the pandemic, it is that it has forced us to adapt to not being able to travel. 

This year has made me more appreciative of my close friends and family. Having spent the majority of the lockdowns alone, I have appreciated the warmth and friendship of people calling and keeping in touch. Checking up on one another and each other’s mental health is something we can all keep for the future. 

Marigold Warner

Marigold Warner joined the British Journal Photography in April 2018, and currently holds the position of Online Editor. She studied English Literature and History of Art at the University of Leeds, followed by an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Magazine, Huck, Gal-dem, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.

No Comments Yet

Comments are closed

Contact

Get in touch
Submit to editorial
Press enquiries

Keep Inspired

As a valued member of our community, every Wednesday and Sunday, you’ll receive the best of international contemporary photography direct to your inbox.