March 5, 2012

A very Parisian exhibition

Every Paris lover knows this photo...

Le baiser de l'Hotel de Ville, 1950

...but have you ever seen this one?

L'échaudoir de la rue Sauval, 1968

My International girlfriends and I stood in line infront of the Hotel de Ville to visit Robert Doisneau's photo exhibition "Paris Les Halles" last week. While the old market space in the centre of Paris, Les Halles, is being redeveloped, the Paris authorities have invited the public to see what the area looked like as a bustling market through the eyes of photographer Robert Doisneau.

A few years before the Second World War, Robert Doisneau began photographing the area of Les Halles, known as the Stomach of Paris. Between 1933 and his death, he photographed the market area many times. It is refreshing to see how his subjects would interact voluntarliy with his camera - some smiling straight into the lense others continuing their business - which is a big contrast to today's photophobia due to social media overkill.

What struck me most is the lack of tourists at this exhibit. Don't get me wrong - we did queue after all - but the most unusal thing happened in a Parisian museum....everybody spoke French!

Yes, this was a local event. French are known for their tendancy to intellectualize. The expression "une prise de tête" is after all purely French. It amazes me to see how interested they are in their own history. They are a part of it not only because they ARE French but because they live it...past and present!

Today, they were willing to share this heritage with four foreign ladies translating some of the photos' titles we did not understand and explaining the puns behind the word play... all this happend spontaneously. So, next time someone tells me the Parisians are unfriendly I beg to differ... it just depends what situation you catch them in!

La marchande de fleurs, 1968

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