Paris Then and Now

Paris Then and Now

Hotel de Ville then

Hotel de Ville 2012





















Before and after; then and now — don’t we find the concept fascinating (except of course, if ageing means looking at photographs of the younger self then the older self!)? Studying photographs of Paris then and now is absorbing. Is the present more beautiful? How have the grand buildings aged, if they still exist?

Peter and Oriel Caine

Before I went to Paris this last time I bought a little book called Paris Then and Now by Peter and Oriel Caine, Thunder Bay Press, San Diego, California, 2007. It’s an interesting concept, if not original, with one page having a photograph from the past, and the opposite page a photograph from modern times.

The photographs aren’t just static building-to-building shots; there’s a marvellous photo of a tank in the Place de la Concorde in the battle for Pais in World War II and a picture of the Place, its buildings bathed in sunlight today. There’s the Pont de l’Alma in the 1910 floods, and after rebuilding today. We see ladies in 1900 flocking to shop at the Galaries Layfayette, and the store today. And the Eiffel Tower in various stages of contruction. Fascinating!

Peter and Oriel Caine, not just authors, run Paris Walks, probably the most well-known English-speaking walking tour provider in Paris. I did three walks — one in the Marais, one in Montmartre, and one exploring the Left Bank during the Occupation by the Germans in World War II. Highly recommended!

 Atget’s Paris: Then and Now

Atget Street Vendor


















In 2012 I went to an exhibition of Eugene Atget’s photography at the NSW Art Gallery.

‘Between 1897 and 1927 Atget captured the old Paris in his pictures. His photographs show the city in its various facets: narrow lanes and courtyards in the historic city center with its old buildings, of which some were soon to be demolished, magnificent palaces from the period before the French Revolution, bridges and quays on the banks of the Seine, and shops with their window displays. He photographed stairwells and architectural details on the façades and took pictures of the interiors of apartments. His interest also extended to the environs of Paris.

In addition to architecture and the urban environment, he also photographed street-hawkers, small tradesmen, rag collectors and prostitutes, as well as fairs and popular amusements in the various districts. The outlying districts and peripheral areas, in which the poor and homeless sought shelter, also furnished him with pictorial subjects.’

Eugène Atget. (2013, April 20).  In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 07:11, April 21, 2013, from Wikipedia.

The photographs were moving and a fascinating record of Paris and its people — then.

A modern-day photographer, Gerald M. Panter, has taken some of Atget’s images of buildings and street scenes and taken a photograph of the same dimensions from the same perspective (but not using the same methods  as Atget lugged around a large wooden bellows camera) . You can see the results at Gerald M Panter.

Many of the original photographs are on display at the Musée Carnavalet (when they aren’t travelling the world on exhibition). The Musée is closed for renovation until the end of 2019.

Oui Paris Tours

While researching my topic, leading up to my last but not least revelation, I found Oui Paris Tours and their segment on Paris Then and Now. This is fun.

Paris: Then and Now gets updated weekly and compares two photographs, paintings, drawings or engravings: one from the past and one from the present to uncover unknown, mysterious and fascinating facts about the turbulent history of the City of Light.’

There are segments on Louis Vuitton, Napoleon and his modern-day heir (what a honey!), the Musée d’Orsay as a station and now as a museum — the list goes on.


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