I became intrigued with the idea of combining my love for
Paris with my passion for photography. I felt I could follow
no better example than that set by Eugène Atget, whose
photographs represent the quintessential views of the art,
architecture and scenic urban life of Paris during the late
19th and early 20th century. So I began, and continue, my
quest to locate (not always an easy task) and photograph
those remaining buildings, bridges, passageways and narrow
streets which Atget had so beautifully photographed a
oncoming traffic, reconfigured streets, construction and
innumerable other obstacles created a challenge to my
project, nevertheless I succeeded in taking my photographs
from the exact location and with the same perspective as
those selected by Atget. My photographs were then enlarged
to the same size as the glass plates he used, 18 x 24
centimeters. Placed side by side, the resulting diptychs
invite the viewer to compare and contrast views of Paris
taken a hundred years apart.
In spite of
the ravages of time, wars, enemy occupation, riots and
gentrification, my diptychs reveal that much of the Paris
which Atget photographed a hundred years ago still remains,
generating nostalgia, as well as a celebration of a city’s
respect and pride for its history. Like
Shakespeare’s heroine, age cannot wither her, nor custom
stale her infinite variety.
Acknowledging the significance of my study of Atget and his
methodology, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the
Museum of the City of New York hosted lectures given by me
in connection with their major exhibitions of his work.
following in his footsteps -- down those narrow, winding
streets, many still retaining their cobblestone pavements --
has been considerably more than a mere academic experience.
There is, for me, an emotional response which never fails to
be elicited when, turning the corner of some lesser-known
little street in the 5th, I discover the very sight which
caused Atget to pause, unburden himself of his cumbersome
heavy wooden tripod, meticulously position his unwieldy view
camera and beautifully capture a delightful piece of Paris
for generations to come.
glory of which I could not speak filled me then like a
shimmering of sunlight. It was the ten thousand famous
photographs Atget had made of a Paris now gone, those great,
voiceless images bathed in the brown of gold chloride – I
was thinking of them and of their author, out before dawn
every morning, slowly stealing a city from those who inhabited
it, a tree here, a store front, an immortal fountain."
(Salter, James. A Sport and A
Pastime, New York: Modern Library, 1995, pp. 12-13.)