I lived in Paris for a year. I had a hard time settling in at first. But in a few months, I fell in love with the city.
Infatuation with the City of Love may be a visitor’s cliché, though I don't mind. The French word happens to be my favourite utterance; I like how it sounds and the genuine motives behind it. This essay is my expression of the unapologetically clichéd admiration for Paris.
Paris is the city where I discovered analogue photography. As a kid, I shot on film with my parents’ vintage camera. But it’d been a couple of decades since I used one. Having met numerous people in Europe shooting on film, I got perplexed by their work. Wishing to do the same, I ordered myself a disposable camera and just started clicking. I wasn’t necessarily great at photography, but I persisted: I love the look of it. Later I got myself a reusable compact camera with a built-in electronic flash and a Kodak Tri-X 400 Black & White Film. What you see here is the result of that acquisition and my obsession with the city and the medium I used to capture it on.
Scene I: “Coffee and Cigarettes.”
Parisian cafés are more than what you’d expect from a typical brew shop. Known for their round tables, and menus with meals for any time of the day, they serve coffee, tea and a wide range of alcoholic drinks, including wine. These cafes are the centre of social life in Paris. And yes, almost everyone is smoking. My favourite thing about these places is an excuse to sit still and observe people.
Scene II: “The Lifeline.”
My college was in the 13th arrondissement, and my apartment was in Palaiseau, in the southern suburbs. I always took public transport, the Métro and Réseau Express Régional (RER) to move around the city. These trains and trams are the lifelines for more than 2 million residents of the French capital. They connect people and places, both literally and figuratively.
Scene III: “Art & Culture.”
Walking the streets of Paris is a treat. Regardless of the destination, you’ll eventually end up at a spot you’ve read about in a book or saw it in a film. You’ve probably seen Palais-Royal (the seat of the Ministry of Culture) and its gardens in movies like The Da Vinci Code, The Tourist and Mission: Impossible — Fallout. Here is a crew shooting a scene for an unknown project.
Scene IV: “Sunshine/Shade.”
Parisian architecture is remarkable. From gothic to art nouveau, the various builder expressions are seen all around the city. Here I am looking at one of the most iconic covered arcades with sunshine/shade play setting in for life’s triumphs and disasters.
Scene V: “Present-day.”
The City of Paris does not allow skyscrapers for a good reason. Montparnasse tower is an exception. Once the tallest building in France, it is still rising high — a symbol of the city’s modernity.
I left Paris last fall. I’ve moved on, but to be honest, I miss it. I am sure to go back there again one day, but till then I am taking comfort in the Ernest Hemingway’s words:
If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.