Street photography in Paris

My days and nights seem to be running together—and the common thread is my new-found friends.

Last night I went to Le Galway to catch my pal Jan. He rocked the house … and after two hours, I was hoarse from singing along. The short walk home provided some much-needed fresh air and gave me an opportunity to catch Paris at her most beautiful: on a rainy night.

And this morning, I got up early to meet my street-photographer friend, Mo. I ran into him last week in front of Notre Dame and found him très sympa. So when he offered to take me on a street-photography tour, I jumped at the chance.

My first lesson came when I grabbed my zoom lens and trained it on a far-off waiter. Mo explained why a short lens was better for street photography, and showed me how different my results would be. And he was right: The intimacy of being right in front of someone does show in the shot.

We also talked about the technical aspects, such as shooting in RAW format, and about his processing techniques. Then we sat down and enjoyed two Coca Colas. The tab: €15, or about $22. Je suis très, très desolée, Mo. But at least our perch in the café provided some excellent opportunities for people-watching.

We then went to the Pompidou Center’s bookstore to look through photography books together. He showed me Robert Doisneau’s color images about Palm Springs.

I didn’t like them at all, at first. For me Doisneau was a master of black-and-white street photography, and these color images were garish and unattractive. Mo talked about that being part of the point: The furs and cars and golf courses wouldn’t look half as over-the-top opulent without their Technicolor sheen.

After a late lunch, we said our goodbyes. I was very touched that he gave me another one of his gorgeous prints. I promised him that I would take good care of them and have them encadréed (framed). Then we did our secret photographer handshake and I was off.

It’s wonderful to know that I have at least one dear friend in Paris. Merci mille fois, Mo. À la prochaine.

On my way back to the apartment I stopped briefly to watch the action around Notre Dame. Along the river, a mini-marching band assaulted my ears …

… an old lady fed an army of pigeons …

… a group of young skaters did tricks for an enthusiastic crowd …

… people strolled and shopped …

… or just sat in a café and watched it all unfold.

I was desperate to get home and get a nap. After a late night at Le Galway, I was exhausted. Alas, no sooner did I lie down than a drunk parked himself across the street for a spirited and colorful rant. “VIVE LA FRANCE! CE N’EST PAS QUESTION D’ARGENT. C’EST QUESTION DE RESPET!!” OK then, buddy …

So I turned my attention to my next Blurb book, which will be titled Paris: Between the lines. Here’s a sneak preview of a few of my photo illustrations. See you tomorrow!


  1. These are so incredible! I LOVE the black and white shots especially. The one that caught my eye the most was the person on the bike. My second favorite was the two people looking out the window. There is a very intimate feel to this photos, as if you know the people you are photographing and are telling a story that they cannot.

    • Wow, thanks for your kind words. I’ve secretly been very disappointed in my photos … so perhaps I’m being too self-critical. Anyway, thanks for reading — and thanks so much for your comment! Best, H.

  2. Thanks anew for the lovely blog photos and notes from the complicated and immortal city of Paris. I hope your last few days there will hold peaceful contemplation and happy surprises. I’ve been rereading Henry James, one of my favorite authors (most people hate him, but I love him, because I”m weird) recently…one of his main themes is what Americans find, for better or worse, when they go to Europe, and how they come home knowing themselves and life better. Judging by your wonderful, thoughtful, surprising photos, you could be a character in a Henry James novel! (But I recommend that, lest you die of boredom at his prose, you simply rent some of the beautiful movies that have been made of his books sometime — much easer to take!)

    I hope morel hunting in the Goodhue County mud, the exciting and glamorous expedition we have planned for May, as soon as the glaciers melt in Minnesota, won’t seem too mundane after Paris! This is our year! We will find the elusive morel! We will then cook it! In butter! (Beure? Perhaps the only French word I know…)

    Soak up the good things in your remaining days.
    Your Minnesota pal,

    • What lovely words, Pam … thank you so much. I will indeed come home from Paris knowing myself—and life—better. Though I think that in spite of my escapades, I’m still too boring to be in one of James’ novels. (Whom I don’t hate, by the way!) And in no way will morel hunting be a letdown after Paris. There’s no better way to end an adventure in a city I love than by having another adventure with a friend I love. Anyway, thank you so, so much for your friendship. You’ve really helped make the past few days less lonely. Love, H.

    • Wow H, always fun going back on your posts since I only discovered your lovely blog I think about a year or so ago. You surely are one talented lady. Never knew you were an illustrator aswell. Is there any end to your talents…. Lovely photo’s too. Your street photography has inspired me so much…..I will tell soon… xx

      • You are so sweet, Rochelle — and a very talented lady yourself. I just saw your street photography post, and I am very impressed. I think the “student” may have already surpassed this master-wanna-be. 😉 Well done! xx

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