March 17, 2020: Paris fell into slumber. Faced with the Covid epidemic, the French government announced a “national lockdown”: cafés, galleries, and cinemas closed. Deserted, Paris became a ghost town. More than a year later, life is slowly returning to normal, and to celebrate this special moment, Durev Gallery, in partnership with the Artismagna Gallery Studio, has organized an exhibition entitled “The City Rises”.
The event, which surveys 75 years of photography in Paris, invites us to take a look at different decades through the eyes of five historical and three contemporary photographers. Among others, we encounter scenes of everyday life taken in the 1930s by Robert Schall, who went on to cover the rise of Nazism, as well as those captured by Pierre Boulat, the only French photographer at Life Magazine, who crisscrossed the city on a daily basis.
During his walks, Boulat saw, thought, spoke, and wrote photography, and his great freedom consisted in photographing anything he liked. The exhibition features another “master,” William Klein, who uses framing, color contrasts, subjects, textures, and unusual printing methods to achieve striking effects in his images which never fail to attract viewers.
The three contemporary photographers—Didier Fontan, Cliff Chan, and Nicholas Simenon—make the city their own, each in his own way. From Nicholas Simenon’s geometric forms which reveal the city’s solitude and isolation; to Didier Fontan’s shots of the Parisian metro, which are a part of a long-term project in urban exploration (Père Lachaise Cemetery, the Petite Ceinture railway, Paris-Plage…); to Cliff Chan’s cinematic visions which form an uninterrupted series of diary entries—the exhibition offers a fresh look at the city.
Paris has never ceased to inspire dreams, and photographers have always been great dreamers: this exhibition is a case in point. William Klein, who chose Paris as his home and spent forty years capturing it on film, used to say: “Here, for any reason, and often for no reason at all, people go out into the street. The city belongs to them.” It is this sense of freedom that attracts all types of photographers for whom Paris is a city of inexhaustible possibilities.
By Ben Small
Ben Small is a writer and photographer dividing his life between Paris and New York. His work has appeared in Le Figaro, Le Monde, The New York Times, Vice and Paris Match, among others.
“The City Rises” (Roger Schall, Pierre Boulat, Alexandra Boulat, Cliff Chan, William Klein, Georges Martin, Didier Fontan, Nicholas Simenon), from June 10 to July 2, 2021, at the Galerie Durev (56 Boulevard de la Tour-Maubourg, Paris 7), in partnership with the Studio of Galerie Artismagna.