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Paris and Photography as the Promise of Possibility

Ulrich Baer

The Invention of Photography

On January 7, 1839, the first images that we today would call photographs were shown to the members of the French Académie des Sciences. These daguerreotypes, named after Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (1787–1851), the man who patented the equipment used to produce them, gave rise to the universe of photographic images we inhabit today. It can be said with some accuracy, as Geoffrey Batchen shows in Burning with Desire: The Conception of Photography (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997) that photography was ‘invented’ in several places at once: it was the answer to a widespread need. The Frenchmen Nicéphore Niépce andDaguerre, as it were, provided the means for a culture to hold on to time itself: this was the crux and the impetus and the greatness of their invention. With the process of daguerrotype glass plates and later photography, it became possible to arrest images, to keep an impression and visual record of things that would otherwise be forgotten.

The Acceleration of Time in 19th Century Europe

Daguerre’s invention altered the way we see the world. But fundamentally his daguerreotypes did nothing truly new. These glass plates simply responded to a deeply and urgently felt need in European culture to retain a record of itself in the face of what people experienced as an ever accelerating world. The first passenger railroad had been put into use in the early 1820s, and even if France was ultimately slower than other nations to see the creation of a passenger rail system, the knowledge that people could cross relatively long distances in ever short amounts of time transformed their experience of the world.

The world had shrunk with the invention of steam engines and the expansion of governments into far-away parts of the world. Now news from abroad could come back within a matter of weeks, if in the century before it took far longer to find out about anything that happened only a few hundred miles away. Traditional ways of life were threatened by this acceleration (as the Rouen Chamber of Commerce argued in 1832 to prevent the railroad from displacing shipping traffic on the region’s canals). Other technical inventions similarly made life faster, and seemingly more out of the individual’s reach. The world was changing at an unprecedented pace. In 1807 the German philosopher Hegel had published his seminal Phenomenology of Spirit where he outlined the progression of the spirit from its simply and naïve perception, over consciousness and self-consciousness, to the manifestation of the world spirit in all of its universalizing and imperialist grandeur and ambition. Hegel’s view of European man’s spirit blanketing the world by means of him seeing, apprehending and rendering understandable the whole world would give rise to Marx’s ideas of a global transformation of the relations between men. It would spawn the wave of colonial exploitation in the 19th century and, as befits a genuinely dialectical movement, also give rise to the various revolutionary movements in the struggle for liberation and freedom from the European yoke. Most importantly, this philosophy captured the zeitgeist of an era hellbent on progress in all areas of personal and public life. Doing things faster, in workshops and offices and on the fields, while cutting down a tree or feathering a hen or copying a lease agreement – this hope for speed was what motivated the great inventors of the day.

Daguerre’s invention responded to and fulfilled this need and urgent desire – and in the same instant promised a cure from what some saw as a threat of traditional ways of life. Photography, once the glass daguerreotypes gave way to cheaper and ultimately mass-produced paper prints, offered a way to simplify the time-consuming act of accurate drawing that required years of training and a good amount of talent. But the same invention of photography also made it possible to hold on to things that were fading rapidly into the past. Tante Sophie in her Sunday best during a visit for little Jean-Francois’ confirmation, or the clouds of gunpowder smoke still hanging in the street after a confrontation between protesters and the police: all captured forever in a photo-image.

Photography was an invention of its time because it fulfilled a “burning desire” to advance our knowledge of the world. But it was also an invention of its time, in the first part of the 19th century, because it allowed all of these advances to be slowed down to a complete stop. Time could be frozen, parceled out in handy little images, and thus owned by the people who felt more often than not just subject to the raging course of history. Photography could do even more: it could tame and domesticate the far-away world that suddenly seemed so much closer due to improvements in transportation and the invention of steam travel. And photography could reveal things that had long been hidden to the human eye: the movement of things too fast for our perception, and the details of things too small or too large to be viewed without a camera and lens.

If you could see an image of real Indians, or ozelots, or the people living near the shore in Portugal, or a war to which your sons had been drafted with little hope of return, and you could hold this image and chat with your neighbors about it, maybe these people and places were not so threatening, or alien, or hopelessly remote after all. Inversely, if you could see photographs of real elephants and real emperors and real deserts all the way to the horizon topped with the washed-out, cloudless and pale sky that characterizes the first few decades of photography, then perhaps there were no sea monsters or fire-filled lands to be feared in the world. Because if there was no photograph, then maybe the unpictured dreaded something did not really exist. Photography became the measure of reality, the great advance in our knowledge of the world, and – crucially – the way to slow down this advance.

Paris and Photography: Hausmann and Marville

No wonder the technology was born in Paris. Paris was the European capital where the changes of the 19th century were experienced to a great degree. Much of French writing, painting, music, and theater of the 19th century is a profound exploration of daily life under modern conditions. Indeed, the French symbolist Charles Baudelaire, who remained decidedly ambivalent about photography throughout his life, is rightly viewed as the world’s first modern poet. He cast in traditional verse lives lived in rapidly changing circumstances. Baudelaire lived and wrote in the 1850s and 1860s, when photography had entered the consciousness of the masses for the first time, and when Paris was transformed from a medieval town into the modern city we know today by Georges-Eugène Haussmann. These two developments of the proliferation of photography and the modernization of Paris, as Shelley Rice explains in Parisian Views (MIT Press, 1999) cannot be thought apart. To think of photography without Paris at its origins is to think of the computer without keeping California in mind, or to think of the renaissance without conjuring Florence. 

Above all, Hausmann created a set of boulevards and plazas throughout Paris that set in stone and concrete a rigorously centralized understanding of the city. Hausmann thought himself in service of the future and ruthlessly redrew the maps of Paris to make it fit the inhabitants to come. He ordered buildings allays to be razed, anticipated needs for mass transportation and created an infrastructure used to this day. In the process Hausmann’s work forced the citizens and inhabitants of Paris into completely new ways of life in the span of a few short decades.

Photography arrived on this scene of a place that underwent a tremendous and rapid transformation. The new medium was instantly used to chronicle these changes. And photographs set upon creating an image of Paris as the “city of light,” as the romantic and moody backdrop to romantic love (the one dimension of life that photography captures most rarely), as the city with the grandest sightlines in all the world. Berlin was a backwater for much of the 19th century; Rome was strewn with ruins. London was a city of commerce and contained emotions: but Paris was the place that invited you to linger, to pause and behold, to look and peek and take the sights with you.

Charles Marville, the photographer of Paris who won an award at the World Exposition in London in the 1850s for capturing in the same image both the skyline of Paris and the clouds above it, remains my personal favorite. With his assistants Marville left his studio in the early morning hours during the 1860s and shot street scenes of alleyways and passages to be razed by Hausmann’s worker on the same day. Hausmann had charged Marville to be the city’s official photographer. He was charged with creating a record of the city and to document the progress Hausmann made in cleaning up the decrepit tenements, trash-strewn cobbled streets and perilous structures housing the poor. Hausmann wanted to drive out the squalor and the stench to create light and air for Parisian to stroll along his boulevards and admire the Republic’s strength by gazing at the monuments in the public squares. Marville set up his camera and diligently created an archive of old Paris at the moment of its disappearance. He worked for the man, and also understood himself to be in the service of progress and the greater good.

But his official assignment did not prevent Marville from setting up a lucrative side business of selling copies from his public shoots to the Parisian who were losing their familiar neighborhood. The people of Paris could not longer shop at the little stalls lining the alleyways after Hausmann’s crews had put up their wooden fences, emptied the streets, and begun demolition. But they could buy for a few francs and take home a print, stamped C. Marville, Paris, of that place where they and their grandparents had shopped for decades. Instant nostalgia went hand-in-hand with photographic blueprints for a greater, brighter, more representative Paris.

The Tension at the Heart of Photography

Marville’s case beautifully illustrates a tension at the heart of photography. It is not the tension between art and documentary images. No, it is the tension between photography as an inherently melancholic medium – chronicling impending loss – and photography as opening the potential for the future. In Marville’s instantly nostalgic images of Paris at the moment of its disappearance, snapped up by Parisians who see their environments crack and vanish under Hausmann’s hammers, photography freezes a moment against the inexorable passage of time. This is one dimension of photography and it is linked to the city of Paris in significant ways.

Photography as a Melancholic Medium

In the inspired writings on photography by the full or part-time Parisians Charles Baudelaire, André Bazin, Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, and Susan Sontag, photography is the medium of melancholia par excellence. Walter Benjamin insists in 1930 that when studying old photographs one can perceive the future death of some photographed subjects in their unknowing eyes. “She [the woman in a photograph discussed by Benjamin] is seen beside him here, he holds her; her gaze, however, goes past him, directed into a disastrous distance” (Walter Benjamin, “A Small History of Photography,” One-Way Street and Other Writings, London: Verso 1997, 242). Pierre Mac Orlan, in his preface to the 1930 edition of Atget photographe de Paris, claims “the power of photography consists in creating sudden death… The camera’s click suspends life in an act that the developed film reveals as its essence.” (Cited in Eduardo Cadava, Words of Light: Theses on the Photography of History, Princeton University Press, 1997, 7).

 André Bazin proclaims in 1958 that “photography does not create eternity, as art does, it embalms time, rescuing it simply from its proper corruption” (André Bazin, What is Cinema? Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004). Roland Barthes writes in 1980 that the photograph “certifies that the corpse is alive, as corpse: it is the living image of a dead thing.” (Barthes, Camera Lucida, 78-79) “Death,” Barthes apodictically continues in his book-long meditation on the loss of his beloved mother, “is the eidos of the Photograph.”

 All of these writers, speculating on a medium in whose history or practice they had no particular training, hone in on that melancholic, mournful dimension of photography. Time, these critics pose in an argument that originates in the 19th century conception of history as the longue durée of time moving along like an unstoppable river, can be halted only by a burst of revolutionary violence – or by the shutter’s click. Photographers, as it were, can free us from the historical time in which we are forced to endure. The camera is the only means available, these critics maintain, to arrest time’s progress. But most of these critics understand what is inside the photograph’s frame as an experience that is lost to us by definition. Their understanding of photography is mournful, elegiac, funerary, death-bound. It is an understanding of photography as preserving things against their inevitable ruin rather than opening up their future potential. Barthes most eloquently muses on this relation between photography and death: "What the Photograph reproduces to infinity has occurred only once: the Photograph mechanically repeats what could never be repeated existentially” (Camera Lucida, 4).

Photography as Opening the Future: A Different Conception of Time

But this line of argument encircles only one dimension of photography. Photographs also open up the possibility of a different future. Every image contains the possibility that the next moment – the moment just beyond the frame, and just past the shutter’s click, and just outside of the frozen moment – turns out to be something we could not know nor expect. A photograph opens up time, holds it in abeyance, and does not only freeze it. It contains vectors going off in many different directions, and even if one of them leads to the subject’s inevitable death, there may be other ones that are equally or more important.

This is the other dimension of photography: every photograph’s promise of a different outcome, another way of looking at the world, and even another world. There is another way of looking at photographs besides seeing death already inscribed. And the legions of photographers who have enlisted in this new way of seeing, thanks to the digital revolution that transforms who can determine what a photograph means, are looking in this affirmative way. They treat photograph not as guillotining reality into frozen moments to be lamented as lost, but as windows into other possibilities. Each picture presents a way of seeing reality in a new way. 

“Even scratched to death

a simple rectangle

of thirty-five


saves the honor

of all of the real.”

writes Jean-Luc Godard poetically in his 1998 film Histoire(s) du Cinéma to stress that film does not bury time but preserves moments so they can be the seeds for another future (cited in Georges Didi-Huberman, Images in Spite of All, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008, 2).

Marville’s photographs of those Parisian sites that had been slated for demolition have inscribed in them the fact of gentrification. They register the loss experienced by Parisian of their particular life world, or ways of living. They are records of a top-down, bureaucratic governmental decision that obliterates the traces of lives lived in the same ways for decades, if not centuries. Viewed through this lens of memory, the photographs are melancholic retentions of a time gone past.

But the same photographs of a vanished Paris also contain in them the histories of resisting Hausmann’s initiatives. From these pictures one can also imagine and research the behind-the-scenes battles to push through Hausmann’s ambition, the peddlers who are displaced and make their lives elsewhere, and the laborers who earn their salaries by tearing these things down. To look at these photographs explains a lot about the history of French colonialism well into the 20th century, with its condescension to help the poor by putting in a single road. To look at Marville’s images may lead one not only to the tourist mecca of today’s Paris but to images of contemporary Kinshasa, Republic of Congo, and compare how the main streets were set up in that African capital under French colonial rule. And from this comparison of two images you may begin to think to what extent the displacement of indigenous populations for the sake of a representative urban setting is a practice exported from Europe to the world. But you can look at the very same images of Paris taken by Charles Marville and see the intensity of love chronicled in countless books and movies. From one of Marville’s photographs of the Boulevard de Sébastopol a straight line also leads into James Baldwin’s description of the room where the narrator of his novel Giovanni’s Room (New York: Delta, 2000) finds, for a brief sojourn, love:

"The street he lived on was wide, respectable rather than elegant, and massive with fairly recent apartment buildings; the street ended in a small park. His room was in the back, on the ground floor of the last building on this street. We passed the vestibule and the elevator into a short, dark corridor which led to his room. The room was small, I only made out the outlines of clutter and disorder, there was the smell of alcohol he burned in his stove. He locked the door behind us, and then for a moment, in the gloom, we simply stared at each other –“

Well, get Baldwin’s book and read on at your own peril (the quote is from page 64). My point is that every photograph contains not a sliver of time but opens up different futures. There is no guarantee that a photograph charts a single path only either to happiness, as it flickers briefly in Baldwin’s novel, or to a good deal of suffering and deprivation, as the history of the Congo seems to indicate. Rather, photographs open up the potential for different outcomes.

These photographs contain the potential for one of these sites never to become the glorious vistas envisioned by Hausmann but instead to end up in a wholly different world, in turn opened up by a subsequent photograph. In a photography by Pierre Olivier Deschamps you see a cardboard box planted on an imposing entrance on the Rue Saint Sulpice. There is a live lived inside that box, and it’s not a life that Hausmann would have cared to behold in his visions of the future Paris. To look at a photograph means to view a portal for all of the potential futures that are still possible at the moment when the photographer pressed the button. And these futures are always divergent, multiple, disparate. Marville’s photographs contain the germs of all the futures yet to come.

To view photographs chiefly as instances of melancholic retention means to miss this other, affirmative dimension. To look at photographs and find in them only mute news of the subject’s impending and inevitable death means to negate the dimension of natality that lies at the basis of our lives. The melancholic theory of photography originates in the 19th century, when time was thought to advance along a straight line marked ‘progress’ toward the future, and when individuals experienced much of their world to be shaped and disrupted by forces that were man-made and yet beyond their control.

The Digital Revolution

Fast forward 150 years. Photography has been theorized and debated within the parameters described above: as a melancholic medium that harbors news of our own mortality. But finally the history of photography is freed from the shackles of this restrictive understanding. Thanks to the digital revolution in the media, photography can finally unfold its true potential. “The digital environment allows image-makers to veer from a conventional, Newtonian view of the world to one that considers countless views,” as Fred Ritchen points out in After Photography (New York: Norton 2009, 1). The ease of digital photography allows us to invent new realities – just as previous photographers, from Marville and Atget to Cartier-Bresson invented a certain view of Paris that has stuck with us until today.

But today photography can now easily be looped back to these origins. Today’s image-makers can rework the early images, just as they can create new ways of seeing the world without the need for expensive technical equipment. Since the new technologies are available to vast quantities of individuals the scale of participation and creation has utterly changed. Today photography is no longer the field of a professional elite, even if photography lives on, to a great extent, in the art world. It is the field of dreams for many, where the people who had been depicted passively and silently for so long in photography can finally shape our view of the world, and of them.

@Paris responds creatively to the possibilities of the digital revolution. More significantly, @Paris assembles a range of photographs that were not taken within the confines of the academic theoretical conception of photography, as outlined above, as a melancholic medium. The photographers represented here show Paris, one of the world photographers’ favorite subject matters, from the perspective of sheer possibility. It is important to stress that this perspective of possibility is a formal and conceptual but not necessarily a thematic concern of photography. A photography does not have to show something at the brink of two different outcomes to be recognized as the potential for a different future.

@Paris also takes an important step in the next phase ushered in by the digital revolution. With the staggering proliferation of images accessible to viewers today, the curators of @Paris provide a crucial filter and contextualizing frame for an important selection of images. We will get used to seeing this kind of assemblage in the future, when diving into the oceans of images on the web just proves too much. And we will need guidance, in the form of a borrowed set of eyes from those who’ve see a lot. @Paris suggests that the more images there are, the greater the possibility for us to discover new ways of seeing ourselves and others. But the more images there are, the greater the need as well for curators and critics and authors to provide context, groupings, and commentary on what we see. At the conclusion of his seminal essay 1930 “A Brief History of Photography,” critic Walter Benjamin warned that we must learn to read captions more than ever before. He feared a proliferation of images not because it would overwhelm us, but because it would provide us with too many unwanted frames for viewing the world through other people’s eyes. The task of the curator will become one of affording us multiple views, rather than allowing our perspective to shrink through the simple quantity of particular perspectives.

Lastly, through its form as a more inclusive, on-line way of curating and exhibiting photographs, @Paris is an attempt to showcase ways of looking at Paris as a place where a century of picture-taking seems to have lifted the skin of life itself off the streets. The place is so overexposed that you sometimes think the whole city has retreated from view, after decades of flinching at so many photographer’s clicking away.

When you travel to or live in Paris today it sometimes seems as if you are visiting a coral reef that has been worn down and trampled by too many shutterbugs, ranging from Charles Marville to the latest horde of canon-toting high school kids or rich tourists spilling from a bus. You’ve seen it all before, and mostly you see what others have shown to be worth looking at. @Paris stages an encounter between Paris as photography’s quintessential muse and the digital revolution. This encounter is uneasy, and not all of the results are worth storing on your hard drive for good. But the fundamental gesture of @Paris is to track the vectors propelling time forward from within all of the famous images that we know of Paris, whether through a show of photographs by Cartier-Bresson at the venerable Centre National de la Photographie, or your cousin’s laptop slide show of her vacation pics.

@Paris restores some of the beauty and mystery of Paris – that peculiar sense you get that occasionally the city begins to provoke our gaze. Seduction is only one code that signals this strange sense of the world provoking our gaze: Simon Roberts’ evocative photograph of the doorman looking at the woman passing by captures this strangeness via this code. I would provide the following caption for Roberts’ photography, taken from French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan’s Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan (New York: Norton 1989): At “the phenomenal experience of contemplation this all-seeing aspect [of the world giving the impression of provoking our gaze] is found in the satisfaction of a woman how knows that she is being looked at, on condition that one does not show her that one knows that she knows” (75). Roberts wants you to look at the woman behind the dark glass in a slight blur, at the doorman looking at her passing by, and at Paris as a site where this exchange of glances gives the street itself a feel as if it wanted you to look. It appears as if the city has provoked your gaze rather than you having selected what to look at. This, of course, is the art of great photography: to make you feel that you were meant to look at this, rather than that you chose to do so on your own.

Look at Cameron Wittig’s “November 3, 2006, Hotel du Bresil.” A pack of Gauloises, a few polaroids of a naked girl, hotel keys and a phone. All spread on a cheap and gorgeously patterned bedspread, wide open to our view like Manet’s pornographic and revolutionary painting Origine du Monde (1866) at the Musée d’Orsay. On the level of the objects strewn about, Wittig’s photograph is an assemblage of possibilities: of connection, of loss, of happiness, of regret. Did Wittig see and photograph the woman again, this time with a better camera and not just as a prurient souvenir of a night in a cheap hotel? Did a day follow this night with cigarettes and cameras in a Parisian hotel, and did this Polaroid only capture the first spark of desire that then evolved into a full relationship? Or is this picture the whole story, cut off when key for room 301 was handed back to the reception desk? Has this image been eclipsed with many more images and experiences, including the happiness of waking up together to another day? Or does this picture contain all that there is and prove nothing but the “this has been” which forms the theme for Roland Barthes’ fugue-like meditation on photography in Camera Lucida? Will this picture, like the Polaroid on the bed, be nothing but the dead-end memory of a night of intimacy?

Look at Remon Haazen’s “Passage de la Brie.” A decrepit building once destined for bourgeois dwelling, aflutter with pigeons like the souls of earlier inhabitants given this down-at-the-heels ‘hood some life. Haazen’s image charts one of the many directions in which Paris evolved after Hausmann.

Seeing Through Baudelaire’s Eyes

Céline Clanet’s image similarly spins Hausmann’s dream into the future, albeit with different results. Her carefully composed picture, where trees, lamps, street signs, cars and even the red and white plastic barriers and electricity boxes are all lined up, continues the mania for ordered vistas and straight sightlines that shaped Paris into the city we know today. Unwittingly Clanet’s photograph moves into our present time Charles Baudelaire’s “Paysage” (Landscape) written in the 1850s. Baudelaire did not like photography. He thought photography removed the artist’s touch from artistic representations of the world. Ah, if only Baudelaire had lived to see the results of photoshop, and applications such as Seadragon or photosynth. If only Baudelaire had recognized already in his lifetime that Hippolyte Bayard’s Le Noyé (Self-portrait of a drowned man) of 1840 was a doctored image.

Baudelaire remains relevant precisely because his hallucinatory visions of Paris, in the “Tableaux Parisiens,” a sequence of poems about street life in Paris in the 1861 Flowers of Evil, leave room for other futures to unfold and other lives to be lived. His poems are not artifacts from a bygone era to be exhibited like the pale ribbons, strands of hair, love notes and other mementos that are strewn throughout his oeuvre. This is the great irony of Baudelaire’s poetry. He compares in his poetry his memory to a vast pyramid filled with more corpses than a potter’s field but his work as a whole contains those memories not to bury them but in order to carry them into the future.        

To realize Baudelaire’s vision of Paris means to create pictures with illuminating and unresolved tensions. Clanet’s photograph creates a frame out of a streetscape for a mural with a pink flowering tree and powder-blue sky. The incongruous color rectangle inside her picture looks no more the result of someone’s vivid imagination than Hausmann’s vision of Paris, or Baudelaire’s dream of a “pale blue horizons, gardens/ Fountains weeping into alabaster basins.” The mural underscores that in Paris the stone, iron and concrete surroundings are very much a result of someone’s imagination – and that this imaginary Paris, now presented to our view, is not so far apart from what we could call “fantasy,” “dream,” or “poetry.”

Je verrai les printemps, les étés, les automnes;

Et quand viendra l'hiver aux neiges monotones,

Je fermerai partout portières et volets

Pour bâtir dans la nuit mes féeriques palais.

Alors je rêverai des horizons bleuâtres,

Des jardins, des jets d'eau pleurant dans les albâtres,

Des baisers, des oiseaux chantant soir et matin,

Et tout ce que l'Idylle a de plus enfantin.

It is sweet, through the mist, to see the stars

Appear in the heavens, the lamps in the windows,

The streams of smoke rise in the firmament

And the moon spread out her pale enchantment.

I shall see the springtimes, the summers, the autumns;

And when winter comes with its monotonous snow,

I shall close all the shutters and draw all the drapes

So I can build at night my fairy palaces.

Then I shall dream of pale blue horizons, gardens,

Fountains weeping into alabaster basins,

Of kisses, of birds singing morning and evening,

And of all that is most childlike in the Idyll.

Baudelaire liked looking at the poor people of Paris and to write poems about them. Amy Chang’s “Making a Living” continues this ambivalent practice with striking results. Her image contains the energy and vitality of a street vendor looking out for the flics. But just as Baudelaire afforded the beggars, old women, prostitutes and homeless people in his poetry the possibility of another future, Chang’s photograph does not freeze time the way the cops snap handcuffs on an unlicensed vendor. Her photograph is not a frozen moment that holds only despair and impending doom: it harbors various outcomes and possibilities, among them, surely, quick gestures and flight but also relaxation and a sale. Yoav Horesh’s image of young protesters in the Place de la Bastille works on the same principle of showing a Parisian monument or landmark in an unexpected, or contested context.

@Paris enlarges the frame within which we see Paris and, by extension, the world. It adds to the image repertory of the City of Light but does not stop there. To be sure, not all of the pictures in @Paris are open invitations to tell another, different story. Some of them are dead-ends in themselves, and several of them deliberately so. Look at them and feel where your gaze is blocked. Jordi Huisman’s strong sense of color leaves little to be desired: you may just want to settle your gaze in the discarded down jacket and vanish into dusky cobalt blue. 

Other photographs here are enigmatic invitations to linger and imagine a Paris that will be entirely your own – not a prefab destination marketed by travel agents or peddled as a dream and a bit of a nightmare, too, to people from around the world. Make up a Paris for yourself, these pictures insist above all. Imagine Paris as the possibility to lose yourself in an imaginary past, if you wish and are hooked on Atget and his descendants, or imagine it as the starting point of a different future. But above all do not lock Paris in the viewfinders of those countless photographer who’ve come before you, and who have all too often been straitjacketed by distinguished and inspired critics into harbingers of little else besides nostalgia and loss.