Friday, May 27, 2011

Notre-Dame and Early French Photographers

After a few mishaps due to a confusion in scheduling our class headed toward Notre-Dame. While inside I was particularly captivated by the way light entered the building and how sound was continuously echoing throughout the space. The design of the cathedral creates the biblical aesthetic by darkening the space and enabling beams of light to enter. One can easily tell that this building is of great importance even without looking at the stained glass. The building itself was incredible, large columns faced the viewer upon their entrance in order to diminish their importance. People are not what are important in this building, instead it is the message which it was created around.

© Zachary Seib

After the visit the the grand cathedral the class was separated into groups. One wanted to view architecture and the much smaller group traveled to Bibliotheque Nationale to view a selection of  the photography produced by Atget, Nadar and Gustave Le Gray. Due to my background in photography the my choice was obvious.

 © Zachary Seib

Each of these photographers worked completely differently. Some were fairly typical for their time and others were way ahead of the curve. All of these photographers used the old forms of photography such as the calotype and collodion processes. Atget recorded the old Paris, Nadar photographed the rich and famous and Le Gray created landscapes as a form of art. This viewing was in two separate locations. The Nadar's were viewed in a nice, upper class room from the 1700's. The images reminded me of Irving Penn's work from the 1950's. The images are staged using older works of art for inspiration. On the other hand, Atget's work documents the old Paris. He captured not only the buildings but also the inhabitants of the buildings. This is a very modern way of approaching photography despite being created in yearly 1900's. Atget's images are stunning. They show us a world which has changed and is continuing to change in a constant flux of revival, reconstruction, and replacement.

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