Best Photography Galleries in Paris
When your soul is craving some culture, but you don’t have it in you to brave the crowds of a full scale Parisian museum, photography galleries become the next best thing.
Though not always the headliner, photography and its makers in Paris are considered serious contributors to the overall world of are coming from the city. Photographic exhibitions are generally easier to navigate and less time consuming than spending an entire day at the Orangerie or Orsay Museums.
Since Parisians tend to do things in the present while holding onto the past, you’ll find photographic works ranging from early 1900s right through to today. The following are the best galleries in the city in which to view these works.
Maison européenne de la Photographie (MEP) in Paris
The MEP gallery opened in 1996 on the Right Bank of the Seine in Paris’ 4th. The setting is an old 18th century mansion, an apt paradox to the contemporary works the gallery showcases.
The exhibitions are ever changing on a rotational basis. This is the best place to view contemporary works in photography from both established and emerging photographers. Martin Parr and Larry Clark works can be found in the gallery year round.
Because the gallery is so small, you viewing of the pieces becomes far more intimate and emotional compared to full scale museum displays. You can expect to spend about an hour total to work through the entire place.
The MEP gallery also has a famous library on site where they house a collection of extremely rare first edition publications from other respective galleries.
OPENING HOURS: Wednesday to Sunday: 11am to 8pm
ADDRESS: 124 Rue de Turenne, 75003 Paris, France
METRO STATION: Pont Marie
Jeu de Paume in Paris
The Jeu de Paume is an artists center dedicated to photographic and motion imagery from the 20th and 21st centuries.
The building itself is wonderful to see in person. It used to be a tennis court and was converted into the gallery house back in 1909. It was later used by the Nazis during the war to store confiscated masterpieces owned by affluent Jewish families such as the Rothschilds and the Bernheims.
The Jeu de Paume is wonderful because of its multimedia approach to exhibiting. While the photographic works are abundant, so too are the works in video, cinema and online art. A one stop shop for visual arts, without the stress of a full sized museum.
OPENING HOURS: Tuesday to Sunday: 12pm to 8pm
ADDRESS: 1 Place de la Concorde, 75008 Paris
METRO STATION: Concorde
Polka Galerie in Paris
As a documentary lover, the Polka Galerie is my go-to for photographic exhibitions in le Marais. Tucked in a side street, you wouldn’t know the gallery is there even in passing on a free guided walking tour. Its surroundings are quiet and an hour or two in the gallery takes you right out of the usual street chaos of this area.
The Polka Galerie is dedicated to photographers who capture the affairs of the world through a socio-political lens. Their pieces need to be informative, emotional and reflective of the times.
There are six exhibitions per year within the gallery space. They also publish a curated magazine every two months that delves deep into the works currently being processed and the general world of photography.
Oh, and entrance to the Polka Gallery is absolutely free ma chérie!
OPENING HOURS: Tuesday to Saturday: 11am to 7pm
ADDRESS: 12-14 Rue Saint-Gilles, 75003 Paris
METRO STATION: Chemin Vert
Le Bal in Paris
Le Bal is a nonprofit photographic exhibition space in the lower 18th arrondissement, not far from Montmartre and Pigalle .
The space was born in 2010, having lived through the roaring 20s as a popular Parisian dancehall and then a horse-betting establishment. Now, Le Bal is only concerned with showcasing contemporary works in photography.
In addition to the gallery you’ll find a bookshop, an educational program and the well loved Café Otto. The cafe specializes in shakshuka, so brunching here is a real treat.
Overall this is simply a quaint, low-key, well curated and informative space for photography in Paris. You won’t spend much time here, an hour and a half at maximum if you are eating in the cafe as well.
Since the Moulin Rouge is just a few roads away you can tick off that landmark as well during your visit.
OPENING HOURS: Wednesday to Sunday: 12pm to 7pm
ADDRESS: 6 Impasse de la Défense, 75018 Paris
METRO STATION: Place de Clichy
Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris
Henri Cartier-Bresson is known in Paris and around the world as being the pioneer for street photography. This gallery is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the artist as well as the legacy of the works of his wife, photographer Martine Franck.
The exhibits are on rotation; contemporary photographers are also given space to exhibit in the gallery year round. For this reason there sometimes won’t actually be any original Cartier-Bresson works up to see — keep this in mind!
The gallery only recently made the move to their new home in le Marais. It sits in perfect proximity to the rest of the museums in the area, namely the Picasso Museum, the The Centre Pompidou and Musée des Archives nationales.