11 March 2008

Paris: Historic Photos

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.

18 comments:

Kalyn said...

You're the perfect person to do a review for a book like this, so it's no wonder they would ask you. Also I'm positive that anyone who reads this blog knows you'd never be anything but 100% honest in a review, so this must be a good book if you liked it.

Bruised Orange said...

I will look for that book, it interesting to me. Good luck with the review!

TNelson said...

Mimi:

I've never been fortunate enough to be anywhere "across the pond" yet but your musings on Paris keep fueling my fire and I will get there someday. Glad to see a new post by the way - I was wondering where you were!

Trish

Mimi said...

Thank you Kalyn, that means so much to me!


Thanks, Bruised Orange, you know how much I love cities. I think every city needs a book like this.

Thank you, Trish! I hope you get there soon! I am a latecomer to oversees travel as I had to overcome a fear of flying to do it. Thanks, too, for wondering where I was - the flu got me down for weeks, it seems.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

The perfect gift for our son-in-law, whose graphic novel about Paris in 1907 was published last year. He'd love to have this in his reference library!

katiez said...

I love photo books! They say so much more about a place than words can... And each time one looks they say something new!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I'm with Kalyn, you are the perfect person for such a book. I'm 100% sure you'd have told me if you didn't like it.
I went for this one too!

Christine said...

Mimi, I've been wracking my brain for weeks now over what to get Mr CC for his birthday coming up in April, and now I know! Thank you so much for this review. I know if you like the book, he will like the book!

toni said...

Mimi, I'm chiming in with the others. You're the perfect person to do this review. Of course you made an exception for this book. The heart always wins out in the end.

I love photography and I love Paris. I think I know what I'm going to do with my gift certificate to Borders!

Bruised Orange said...

What is a reasonable budget for flying to Paris from northeast Wisconsin for a couple? Airfare, hotel, sight-seeing, given enough days to 'take in' some of the best sites...etc?

Mimi said...

Lydia, I would love to see that book!

Katie, that is true. I look at them over and over.

Tanna, I've almost never met a coffee tablebook I did not like. They seduce us.

Christine, it's interesting that some of the photos are a bit blurred and yet still say something to me.

I am always thrilled, Toni, when I see old photos of places I have shot in Paris.

Bruised Orange, we usually fly GB to Detroit (and vice versa) for anywhere from $688 to $1100 per person. A few days in Paris? You could get by for $500-600 euros per day with a hotel, less with a rental flat.

Farmgirl Cyn said...

I love books. Period. And a book about Paris? Oh yeah! I will look for it in our library system!

Charm & Grace said...

I am glad you decided you'd do the review; now I will have to look for that book! Of course I do love learning of things French (that's how I found you), so that will be fun. Photos, especially old ones, are always fuel for the imagination. Hubby and I love to get pictorial histories from our library and peruse them together. We have such interesting conversations about this or that...

Blessings,
Christi from Charm & Grace

Mimi said...

Cyn, I hope you can find this one and enjoy it!

We do that, too, Christi, since my husband's avocation is photography!

lady jicky said...

They would be stupid not to let you do the review! Look at the amount of interest you have caused already! LOL
I have seen this book and like you, wondered what became of these people - it can get depressing for you know , all must be gone along with many of the lovely buildings people take for granted , do not see the time and work that they took - boom , the wreckers ball and all gone.Its not just Paris either. There is a lovely old house up for sale near me. Sadly on a big block of land - its going to be "BOOM" - and more ugly cheap units will be built.
So this is the future - thank God for the people in National Trusts who try to protect heritage buildings from the "Boomers"!
Fingers crossed for you Mimi to review it. Hey - show them your blog! LOL

Betty C. said...

You're my third blogging friend who got a copy of this book to review, and I am jealous! I got to review one when I was writing for Well Fed, and would actually like to review more. Any advice?

Mimi said...

Toni, I am a huge fan of historic preservation, too. I am sorry it has taken me so long to reply.

Hi Betty, I am not sure how or why some companies or publishers contact bloggers - I was thinking it was my post about Eugene Atget a few months ago. Maybe.

Betty C. said...

Yes, I think somebody told me that if you start reviewing books, publishers will start sending them to you.