When I was picking my next city to shoot at dawn after London I was super resistant to Paris. I had been to Paris on a few weekends with my wife since I arrived in London from LA in 2000. To me it was a pretty, dinky little city that was good for eating but not for a photo book. Not like the sprawling, ever changing, diverse city of London that I had fallen in love. After all Paris all looks the same, right? The architecture is so uniform, the prettiness so precise – what could I find there that was would help me create something unique? Well it turns out that I was wrong that it was all made up of chocolate box type views. There is plenty of edge to Paris, you just have to wander off the beaten track. Here are some of my favourite finds:
I discover a city by wandering. Getting totally lost and looking around. I might check out a place on google maps before I leave, but once I am on the road I don’t want to miss anything by staring at my phone, I want to really see what’s there. That’s how I came across this awesome disused railway line hanging over the streets of eastern Paris. Over grown with fruit trees and bushes it was an amazing find. Apart from the lingering memory of taking a bunch of mini-plums home to my family and my 6 month old daughter swallowing one whole (she was fine, only her parents were traumatised, especially me as I had to investigate her expulsions for the next several months searching for the plum stone) . Apart from that – I love the photos I got there.
I am a total sucker for reflections. Reflections and lines and interesting shape formations. So you can imagine my joy at discovering this insanely mirrored, glassed construction on the western edge of Paris.
I know graffiti isn’t a place, but I wanted to add it because – firstly it’s everywhere, and secondly it’s a reminder to me that you can shoot the same view, the same building, the same sunrise as millions of others – but if you can find a different angle, if you can see the view in a different way you have the chance to capture something unique. I also love how you can hold the two very different sides of Paris together in the same photo – the beauty and grit. Paris has an amazing street art culture and given it’s constantly changing it’s also a great way to capture something unique and ‘off the moment’.
My love of reflections rears itself again here and it’s because of the canals that runs through Paris. This is a great, new-ish hip area of Paris – nice bars, galleries, trendy young folk hanging out on the banks of the canal – so it’s worth an evening visit. At dawn it’s got some great glassy, still water and interestingly shaped bridges. I particularly love this reflection shot.
My family and I stayed in Barbès-Rochechouart for several months whilst I was shooting Paris at Dawn. It’s an intense, densely packed area, rough around the edges with great north and west africans shops and markets – as well as few dodgy characters hanging around the street corners. What was interesting to me about this was how the architecture was the same here as every other part of Paris; dainty, impractical balconies, pretty uniform buildings, but instead of gourmet cheese shops & charcuteries it was shops selling big boxes of fresh mint & coriander (a wonderful place to walk past in the morning) or tiny shops stuffed with harissa and saffron. It was not like the manicured Paris I had seen so often on my touristy trips here.
And a few unusual foodie tips…..
My family and I love to walk around the back of Gare du Nord to ‘Little Sri-Lanka’ for some amazing cheap curries & melt in your mouth parathas. This was our favourite place . We were also blown away by the shouldn’t-work-in-a-million-years-but do crazy pizzas at Pink Flamingo. Chicken Tagine, Paella, Cuban pork with fried plantain are some of the most amazing pizza sensations I’ve ever had – and I LOVE pizza.
Lastly the really awesome Le Comptoir Général is a social entreprise, super hip spot that has good drinks, great atmosphere and African street food plus hosts events like a weekly farmers markets, African fashion fairs, kids story-telling & disco sessions and blues nights. Social entreprise is a pretty new and unusual concept in France so it’s well worth taking a look.
What are your favourite places to photography Paris? I’d love to know 🙂