The Kiss on the Ile de la Cité
I recently spent some time in Paris with my family. The last time I was there was a little over twenty years ago and while some things were different much has remained the same. Paris is still a beautiful city, even in winter with freezing temperatures. It is still grand and chic and fast-paced. It is still old and yet, it still manages to stay contemporary. And it’s still a mecca for artists and their art.
My primary desire for visiting Paris was to see the city which had once been my home as a young child through the eyes of my own children (11 & 15). While I feel right at home in Paris there is no denying that we were there primarily as tourists and as such I took a lot of snaps but in true form, I only made a few meaningful photographs; you know those rare occasions where the photograph presents itself and intuition kicks in and plays it’s part with me as a mere camera operator, a simple bystander. Most of the time I was too taken by my children’s impressions. However the photo above was one occasion where seeing just happened.
The location was Île de la Cité near the cathedral of Notre Dame. Despite the freezing weather the streets were filled people and traffic was heavy everywhere we went. We were making our way from Notre Dame to the Pont Neuf when I saw the scene depicted in the photograph. Thoughts of Robert Doisneau and his photograph “Kiss by the Hotel de Ville” came to me. For a moment I was transfixed, my family moving on without me, and then the thoughts completely dropped off. At this point I became aware that the crowds had momentarily disappeared as had the traffic along Rue de la Cité. My gloved hand raised the camera up to my eye and before I knew it a photograph was made. Then just as quickly, the moment was over, the crowds returned, the traffic roared along the street once more and the bus took off with the “lovers” in tow. Despite the technical imperfections there is a lot I like about this image most of which I only noticed days later when I downloaded it to my computer but that moment, when I first saw the scene, that is what photography is all about for me; losing my self in the moment. Such moments are wonderful. Perhaps all the more so for their scarcity.
One thing I have always liked about Paris is that it is a city in which I can walk without intent or purpose and not feel like I am wasting time. There are surprises everywhere and there seems to be art around every corner. From the little mosaic space invaders on the sides of buildings to the monuments and statues as well as the rich mixture of architectural styles. Along the Seine or around Montmartre, in the cobblestoned streets of the Quartier Latin or in the shadow of the Grande Arche de la Défense people with trestles and canvases or tripods and cameras try to capture those elusive, fleeting moments. Like lovers trying to steal a kiss on the back of a bus.
In Paris, art, like love, is all around. And like love, sometimes it’s genuine and sometimes… well, you know… it’s just commercial.