A Parisian son comes home: Michel Haddi at La Secret Gallery in Paris
Michel Haddi is one of the world’s greatest photographers (and a contributor to WONDERLUST so, you know, what more need I say). He has photographed most of the most interesting, vital people of the last fifty years, subjects against whom cameras have shuttered maybe a million times, but who always appear as if it’s the first time you really saw them, or maybe really looked, in a Haddi photo.
He’s famous for a few in particular — Kate Moss, who he took from being an international star to a generational icon, David Bowie, and Tupac Shakur, whose last, and I think most defining, shoot was with Haddi. All are represented in his show, Let’s Dance, at La Secret Gallery, which isn’t a secret at all but one of Paris’s more chic and exciting art spaces, at 19 rue de Varenne, in the 7th arrondissement, just 150 yards from the famous Cafe de Flore, where Picasso and Chagall and the great impressionists and abstract painters of the early 20th Century drank and more than occasionally bummed meals.
The show, coupled with an exhibition of French designer Reda Amalou’s artistic furniture creations, runs until March 18th and features many previously unseen photos by Michel, and, incredibly, is his first gallery show in France.
Michel was born in Paris, in St Germain, one of the administrative quarters of the 6th arrondissement. His mother was Algerian-Morrocan and his father was a French soldier who he met twice in his life, the last time on his deathbed. He got his eventual start in photography as an assistant to English photographer Ben Lee, in London, but he got his interest in it from old copies of fashion magazines that his mother brought home from her job at an upscale hotel in Paris when he was a boy.
By the late 70s, Haddi was a first choice photographer for Vogue editions around the world. Now in his 60s, he hasn’t slowed down, annoyingly, to some of us in our 60s, and travels the world constantly, on assignment and for his LEGENDS books.
La Secret Gallery is the passion project of Nathalie Elmaleh and Laurent Teboul, two set designers and artistic directors, who, in their words, like to bring a “theatrical staging” to everything they do, which includes museum presentations across France and internationally.
It’s a beautiful space, colorful and quirkily arranged, not the usual antiseptic, droll white walls with art evenly spaced and burningly lit by overhead track lighting. It’s more like someone’s gorgeously designed house.