I have developed a fondness for Paris through direct experience of her beauty but beauty is superficial. To really know Paris you have to get inside, see beyond or perhaps behind facade. Once you do, then you can know what it means to love a city. Many before me have loved Paris and have photographed or painted her portrait or have written about her. Images and words are an artist's attempt to describe his own image of the world and if you can get people to see the world as you do, you have framed their subsequent encounters with that world. These images and writings are with me as I walk the streets of Paris. They are like captions or perhaps subtitles that inform and enrich the experience. As I walk along the Seine this morning, Georges Simenon, the creator of Inspector Maigret, is responsible for many of my thoughts and emotions. Of his almost 200 novels it is the Maigret stories that run through my head. As Inspector Maigret solves his crimes he moves through Paris introducing me to cafés and bars, to things to eat (brandade de morue) and drink (eau-de-vie), to observations about the quartiers of Paris and the people who live in them, to ways of moving about the city in its buses, taxis, and back alleys. Like laminations, my experiences and his have joined to ignite in me a long love affair with Paris. Maigret worked just under the tower in this image. He could see across the Seine to the cafés of the Left Bank and Place St Michel. I stood here, letting the early morning sun burn the image deeper in my mind and my imagination. I will see it forever but I made this image to share it with you.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Having lunch can be simple right? Hey, let's grab a bite. In and out and back on the street or back to work. Well, not for me when I'm in Paris. Lunch can be an almost mystical experience here. Meet someone at their apartment at 11:30 or so. A glass of champagne sounds good while we catch up on news. A nice walk to our table in nearby restaurant known for its oysters. Drink a bottle of white over a platter of fin de claires and ponder the main course. Steak tartare for her, the dorade looks good to me. A second bottle of wine goes well with the main course. We ponder dessert and against all reason and tradition order another platter of oysters! (with more wine of course). It's been a pleasant afternoon, oh my it's already 4 o'clock! What will we do for dinner? I've spent more than one day like that in Paris but today it will be La Choppe Daguerre on the market street rue Daguerre. We get there too early ... the kitchen isn't ready to serve yet but a glass of wine makes the wait seem quite short. As we sit here an accordion player shows up and turns it into a scene from a movie. Accordion music, le musette, brings out the flavor of Paris like fleur de sel brings out the flavor of steak. Even the waiter is transported by the scene and he works here every day. I take a picture and walk out to drop a 2 euro piece in the player's cup and hope he stays a while longer. Lunch was worth the short wait but we won't linger today, the rest of rue Dagurre needs to be explored.
Friday, November 12, 2010
My visit to Paris was drawing to a close. I felt an intimacy of a different nature this time. Paris hugged me, she closed in around me and I felt her comfort, her warmth against cold air of this day and what would have otherwise been a dreary scene. This is Île St Louis near Pont St Louis, a starting and ending point for much of what goes on in my Paris as well as in historical and literary Paris. All of it mingled together in this scene that I find myself looking up to with the waters of the Seine touching my shoes. Zola opens his novel “The Masterpiece” here at night in the rain and we learn of the lives of struggling artists. Camille Claudel lived and worked here for many years. Perhaps August Rodin, her teacher and mentor, stood here at this wall, wondering about their lives and why things had happened as they did. The reader on the wall in the lower left portion of the image seemed at peace here but he and I know it won't last. Dark clouds from the left are going to bring rain, the kind of rain that must have inspired Zola's opening scene where Claude loses his fear of the storm as he, partway across Pont Louis-Philippe, stops running from the rain, spreads his arms and walks slowly through the downpour to meet what Paris has in store for him. For me it was like a dream, the rain started to fall but in minutes I was back in my apartment with a good book, a hot cup of tea, the rain on the windows, and a little later the strangely syncopated bells of Notre Dame.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
I find myself on rue de Seine. If someone were to ask me to summarize Paris, to point out out her quintessential personality, to give a sense of her history, this is the street I would walk them down. I would walk them across Pont des Arts from the Louvre and through the arch to the left of the Académie Française. An arch, a doorway, that gives no hint of what lies behind. We would stand here for a moment, a bit surprised at the sudden change of feeling, from the majesty and grandeur of the golden dome of the Académie to this 18th century street. On the left is a small park. In it is a fountain that once marked Place Maubert in the Latin Quarter, a link to the Sorbonne and its students, solidly marking the intellectual history of Paris. On the right, a bookstore dedicated to the climbing of mountains and next to that an agency that sells documentary images of Paris. In its long windows are displayed images of Paris from the beginnings of photography. We are just one block from Beaux Arts and art galleries make up most of this part of the street. I find it difficult to capture the nature of rue de Seine on film but I keep trying. I walk this street during the night enjoying the quiet, I rarely see another person or a car. During the day the galleries and bookstores are open and the street is alive. On my early morning walks with my camera, especially in the winter, I stop in at La Palette to rest for a minute, to drink a hot coffee, to get some feeling back in my fingers so I can change film in my camera. It is always warm and friendly and full of the spirit of artists past and present.