For a number of reasons, Paris feels like a second home to me. I have visited this city over 20 times, lived there briefly and I dream about it almost every day. Yet I had never taken any pictures of the City of Light–maybe out of respect for the incredible images of Paris that have been made by the French masters of this art form (do I need to mention Cartier-Bresson or Doisneau?) or maybe because I seem to need a very foreign environment to be inspired to shoot, not having taken any images of my hometown either (humm, this maybe worth discussing with a therapist). So last July when I decided to take a one-week workshop on street photography in Paris (with the great Peter Turnley), I was not sure how I would enjoy photographing this city I love so much. When five other eager participants and I were sent on our own with the instructions of shooting anything that was Paris for us, to be reviewed later, I certainly felt somewhat anxious as to whether any of Paris would reveal itself through my lens (as opposed to through my taste buds which is my most frequent connection.)
So I walked around trying to capture a tiny bit of quintessential Paris; monuments, museums, gardens, churches, bridges, cafés, booksellers on the Seine, street performers, and of course, lovers. But, as you will see below, I also spent a lot of time along the Seine where every night after leisurely drinking champagne sitting on the lawn, people congregate on Quai Saint-Bernard and dance the night away. Parisians come to dance whatever inspires them: tango, salsa, rock-n-roll, and hip-hop, each being performed at a different spot on the “Quai”. Singles, couples, families, young and old, dark and pale, a mixture of people of all backgrounds together enjoying themselves. It is, to me, Paris at its best.
My other focus was the Paris metro. For years, I have been having a love affair with the Paris subway. I just loved how the stations are all different and how their Guimard-designed entrances are so elegant. During an extended previous visit, I had once decided that I would stop and experience every one of its 250 stations (now over 300). I did not reach my goal but probably have seen more than most Parisians (did I mention a need for therapy?) So I had to spend a little time and shoot in one of my favorite parts of Paris, the Paris metro.
Finally, as we were there for Bastille Day, the French National Day, a quick look at the parade was a must. The Bastille Day parade is a military affair where the French citizens can admire the strength of their military (no jokes please!) as they line up on each side of the Champs-Elysées I spent a little time looking around, not at the parade so much, but mostly at the on-lookers and at some of the participants after they were done parading.
So here I was, I had taken some images of Paris. I had planned to shoot black and white because all of the photos of Paris I admire so much are in black and white. But somehow I could not do it. I could take some images of Paris, but in my head, Paris in black and white will always be associated with the great masters. With respect to Paris, I can only aspire to be what the French call an amateur.
See my Paris,