On this chilly Wisconsin night, it does not take much effort to mentally transport myself to Paris on a spring afternoon.
All I need is a photograph to fire my imagination. I am easily seduced by a shadow on the grass, a hint of breeze, a warm sun and children in a park.
This particular park is Le Jardin des Plantes and it looks familiar to me. No surprise, because I have spent a fair amount of time in that area. The photograph that transports me is a simple portrait of street life in 1935, of mothers, perhaps nannies, and a boy with a ball and a blond girl in a pastel dress and a baby buggy.
In 10 years which of them will have escaped harm and which will have not? For Le Jardin des Plantes is near that sad little school on Rue Buffon that broke my heart on a spring day 70-years later.
The simple black-and-white photograph of an ordinary spring day caught me. It makes me wonder about the exact tint of the sky, the time of day, the weight of the air, the sound from off camera. Who are these people and where did they go after they left this little square of time?
If you like to be intrigued by photos and if you love Paris, you will want Rebecca Schall’s Historic Photos of Paris on your coffee table.
The book is filled with many photos that were unfamiliar to me. Some were blurred. All suggested a story. The great flood of 1910. The man with the push cart. The little girl with the pigeons. The women defiantly pedaling a velo-taxi during the Occupation. Josephine Baker. Marlon Brando arriving at Orly. Adoph Hitler and his thugs. The liberation of Paris.
Here is Paris, warts and all. The text makes no effort to romanticize, to sugar coat. The photos, many from the Roger Viollet Agency, show a cross section of Paris life and people and icons. Paris at work and Paris at play. Paris at war and Paris at peace.
The book is the perfect accompaniment to my growing collection of Eugene Atget. I love the Paris of this book.
I was asked by the book’s publisher (Turner Publishing Co.), to do a review, and was provided with a review copy. I have been asked to review books or videos before, but have not done so.
But Paris has my heart. She always will. I made an exception.