Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Eugène Atget's Paris

From April to July of this year, the Musée Carnavalet in Paris exhibited a retrospective of Eugène Atget's photographs of Paris. He is best known for his pictures of vieux Paris and images of the everyday Parisian, anyone from a tradesperson selling flowers, to children watching a puppet show in the jardin du Luxembourg. The musuem itself, rather fittingly, houses the history of Paris; the sign for the 'Chat Noir' cabaret hangs nonchalantly from the ceiling of a room filled with remnants of the old Paris.
Marchand d'abat-jour, 1899-1900
Guignol, 1898
Despite Paris's association as a 'place for lovers', Atget's images are often of solitary figures. Seldom are they captured in moments of emotion, they merely stand as the person they are, a humbling presence in the hustle and bustle of  the vibrant and bustling Paris. It reminds us that we do not need to be surrounded by things and people all the time. There is something quite reassuring about feeling completely content in your own company.
Marchand italien de statuettes, 1998-1899
Cour de Rouen ou de Rohan, 1915
Notre-Dame, quai de Montebello, 1922
Atget's photographs of old Paris also depict images of lonesome space. However, it is not about what isn't there, it is what could be that is important; the empty side streets, full of mystery and potential for adventure. It also means that the viewer is made to recognise the smaller features that would normally go un-noticed and to question the placement and position of objects.
Atget presents to us the foundations of Paris and a documentation of the people who lived in it. His simple, yet alluring visuals stimulate the mind to think of where we are in our own lives. By recognising the details of his Paris we connect with our own realities and remember who we are, and where we want to go in our world.

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