Paris (redone) in black and white

It’s funny how conversations and events sometimes conspire to get you off your [creative] butt.

First it was the ongoing discussion with a photographer friend who encouraged me to “digitally darkroom” some of my old photos.

Then on Saturday I had the pleasure of seeing Peter Turnley’s gorgeous new book, French Kiss – A Love Letter to Paris. I’d bought it for Esteban as a Valentine’s Day gift and had (miraculously!) resisted the urge to thumb through it so we could “discover” it together.

Turnley’s book is aptly named: His beautiful images awoke in me that strange combination of joy and nostalgia I feel only in Paris. Maybe even more gratifying? He also inspired me to revisit my own photos — and to appreciate them with new eyes.

I’m still an awful street photographer, and I still have a lot to learn about black-and-white toning. But just the same, here’s my (redone) love letter to Paris …

Au bord da la Seine 1250392 BLOG

Cafe tables 1020528 BW BLOG

Clochard 1100571 BW 2

Eiffel 1060967 BW BLOG

Eiffel on a bridge 1050302 BLOG

Femme au cafe 1300498 BLOG

Fille au graffitti 1100316 BW BLOG 

Institut 1100781 BW CL BLOG

Moment de repose 1030046 BW BLOG

I heart rien 1000629 BW BLOG

View from Lafayette 1000371 BLOG

Quality time 1110272 BW CL BLOG

Les toits de Paris 1140313 BLOG

Louvre art repose BW BLOG

Luxembourg 1050809 CR BLOG

Mec au stilts 1030059 BW BLOG

Metro 1140583 BW CL CR BLOG

Patisseries maison 1030049 BLOG

Place Dauphine 1030601 BLOG

Place des vosges in the rain BW CL BLOG

Pont Neuf BW CL BLOG 

Le Passage 1030140 BLOG

Louvre cour 1070758 BW 2 BLOG

Seine bridges 1100839 BW BLOG

Shakespeare 1120516 BW C BLOGL

Cafe scene 1300487 BLOG

Rue Colombe 1140556 CL BLOG

Notre Dame 1230724 BW


    • Thank you very much for your kind comment! I tried to narrow it down to 10, but it was taking so long to decide that I just sort of got exasperated with myself and posted the whole lot. Self-editing may be the toughest task of all. 🙂

  1. My goodness – ‘an awful street photographer’? I don’t think so!

    We never see how many photos people like Cartier Bresson took before he chose the ones from his contact sheets that have become famous. When you’re the one taking the photos, it’s easier to see the sand rather than the nuggets of gold nestling within it.

    They’re gorgeous. There’s a majesty to black and white, isn’t there? Tell me, by the way – is your photo of Shakespeare and Company recent? I haven’t been there for years and years and years.

    All best wishes

    • Aw, Elaine … you sure know how to make a girl’s day. Thank you! And it’s funny what you say about Cartier Bresson, because the advice of my photographer friend Craig was ringing inside my noggin as I was selecting my photos: “There are many great photographers. But what sets the greatest apart is that they know how to self-edit.” Which makes me wonder if I should go back an cull a few. 😉

      As for Shakespeare and Company … why, I was there just last November! It was absolutely mobbed with tourists — so much so that it was impossible to browse, so I didn’t stick around for long. But here’s a souvenir for you from many years ago:

      • Thanks for that, H. Read your post on Shakespeare and Company. It brought back good memories.

        Thinking about photography – I agree with the self-editing idea. In the old days, when people had contact sheets, the good photos used to jump out of the mass of so-so photos. It was an opposite process. Nowadays every image asks for the same consideration. It’s like judging a talent contest and having to sit through every act, rather than going to buy a prize camel at market and scanning over the rest until your eye gets drawn to one or two prize beasts. 🙂

        Somebody should invent a contact sheet app for cameras. Or maybe such a thing exists already? It would stop people judging themselves on every single photo and would keep them proud of the jewels that shine out of the rocks.

        • I love the mental image of scanning a bunch of prize animals and settling on a particular camel. 🙂

          There are actually many, many contact-sheet-type apps — and I do use one to sift through photos on my computer. In my case, I think the problem is more one of volume because I’ve become quite a promiscuous shooter since I switched to digital. 😉 I used to be much more deliberate when I was shooting film, because there was a cost associated with each frame. So maybe my first step in self-editing would be a return to the days when I more carefully considered the merit of a scene, carefully composed a shot, and then recorded only one frame of it.

          I’ll try to be more conscious of that on my next trip … I’ll let you know how it goes. (Big grin.)

          • Oh, what a treasure you have sent me! Thank you for this, Elaine … it’s the most beautiful and inspiring thing I’ve read all week. And do you know what else is wonderful? I will be returning this fall — in fact, I’m lodging directly across the river, quite literally in the back yard of Notre Dame. So I will be visiting S&Co often, and thinking of you. Of course, I will do a blog post about it just for you … but if you have a favorite book you’d like me to buy there, I will gladly have it stamped and post it to you. And with any luck they’ll still be giving out the paper bookmarks that bear that most wonderful motto.
            Thanks for brightening my day with your kind message, and cheers to you from Minnesota!

          • I’m going on holiday — and a little bit of work. I really do hope to have more leisure time than I did in November, when I returned home absolutely exhausted from my “vacation”!

  2. These are BEAUTIFUL photos! You are very talented. Its interesting how in your “I’m an awful street photographer” post you mentioned it takes a level of confidence to approach your subjects in fear of “getting busted.” That is something I never really thought about, but it would definitely be a tough skill to develop. I’m amazed by your ability to get so close to your subjects and still have beautifully formatted shots (in terms of the architectural elements in the foreground and background). Amazing, amazing work.

    • I wish you could see me right now, because I’m *beaming.* Thank you so much for your kind words! There’s a sort of vulnerability about posting black-and-white photos of Paris, because it’s been the medium/subject for so many truly great photographers. But your kind words make me think I have something to contribute, too. So, thank you for the shot of confidence! I really appreciate it.

  3. This is a wonderful post. If I may, I’d like to say two things:

    First, I’m going to shamelessly name drop! I met Peter Turnley recently. We met in Place de la République. He was photographing the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks at the same time as I was recording the haunting sounds of that place on that day. I’ll send you a photograph I took of him at work on that day by email. Don’t read too much into that though, we simply exchanged a few words as we both went about the business of recording history in the making. But I know from having seen you work at your photography here in Paris that both you and Peter Turnley have something in common – you are both quiet observers, unobtrusively capturing not only the images but the atmosphere of a place.

    And secondly, and I’m going to tick you off – I can do that because you are my friend. Where on earth did, “I’m still an awful street photographer” come from? I have a book of some of your black & white photographs of Paris on my bookshelf that says quite the opposite! And one day, I shall send you soundscapes to match those delicious pictures.

    • You met Peter Turnley? That’s *extraordinary,* Des! How wonderful … and how bashfully honored I am by your (far too kind, I’m sure) comparison. I do hope to meet him someday; he seems like a fascinating person.

      Secondly … you could never tick me off. I really do think I’m an awful street photographer because my instinct is to engage with people, which of course ruins the authenticity of the moment. Either that, or I try to be furtive and end up feeling a bit creepy! But I will admit I’m getting better. And the next book I give you shall be even better, too. (Big grin.)

      In any case, thank you for truly making my day with your comment. I am “chuffed to bits,” as they say.

    • PS: Delicious soundscapes. Yes! Which reminds me … I really must get cracking on a post about our last walk. I still can’t believe how much ground we covered, and how many new things you showed me! I need to hang out with you more often, methinks …

  4. Lovely pictures! We are a French Cooking and Baking School in Paris and we just started our very own blog. I’d like to invite you to check us out sometime 😉 Also, if you’re ever in town, please do come by, à bientôt!

    • Merci infiniment, Lacuisineparis ! Congratulations on your cooking and baking school — and on your marvelous blog as well. Next time I’m there I will be sure to drop you a note; I would love to do a post about your school. À très bientôt, j’espère !

  5. You are a beautiful street photographer! The ones of the couple, and the man in the wooly hat and beard are my particular favourites- all of them are stunning!

    • Thank you for your very kind words, Laura Kitty. The man in the wooly hat is one of my all-time favorites, because he was a homeless fellow I got to know a bit over my many trips. Sadly, I haven’t seen him in any of his favorite haunts over the past couple of years; I can’t help worrying about what became of him. But I’m glad his image “spoke” to you. Thank you so much for stopping by, and especially for taking the time to comment!

  6. This was very enjoyable. I’ve been to Paris but never captured it on film so eloquently. I too love the photo of the couple on the bench. Simply lovely. The long shot of them, that included the lamp post, textured building and open shutter in the background was my favourite. I always attempt to create that invisible triangle in my photo’s. I also paused at Eiffel through the broken window, that’s a unique point of view. How did you capture that one?

    • Thank you so much for your very kind words — you’ve made my day! That photo of the Eiffel Tower through the broken window seems to be almost everyone’s favorite. I shot it through the shattered glass of the peace monument that had (ironically) been recently vandalized. Rather a striking effect, I thought (pardon the pun!). 🙂

      • Ironic to be sure. Thank you for sharing your story. I don’t know what posses anyone to do things like that, very sad. But you’ve taken a negative and turned it into a positive, Touche!

      • Wow! Great article. I didn’t know any of that. So glad to read that his daughter has taken over. I’m also delighted that he would never sell. Thanks for sharing the article.

        I haven’t been since 1989. Time to make another trip.

        • 1989??! Oooh, yes … time to make another trip! I don’t think it’s changed much, with the possible exception of being a bit more organized. *Grin.*

          • Ha! That made me smile. I love travel, and managed to get around on a budget when I was single and carefee. My oldest son doesn’t travel well at all, so we’ve curtailed it quite a bit. Once my boys are launched (they’re 14 and 17 right now) I hope to do more of it. That said, I’m of on a fabulous adventure to the east coast to meet up with four other bloggers. Of the five of us, I’ve only met one other blogger. Exciting times ahead. Do you have the travel bug?

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