A 2020 Wink to Willy Ronis
Paris In The Year of Covid
Since I paused this blog in January 2018, the world has changed, but Art has not. My camera and some equipment has changed, but my eye has not. Paris has changed, but children have not. As I recommit to producing my weekly, Friday image for you each weekend, I offer this year-end reflection on the passing of time.
A child plays football in the middle of one of the busiest streets for fast-moving vehicles in Paris. In case of interrogation by the police, I have my written, dated and timed permit nestling in my wallet. I am still within the 1-hour permitted for being outside and less than 1 kilometer from home. This is the new normal during the first of two total lockdowns of the City of Lights this year.
I am not Ronis
I live in Paris, largely because I fell in love with it in 1971, as a recently-graduated tourist on a tightly-budgeted weekend break from London. This was my second visit, following a sadder occasion in December 1962, when my father came home to say his last goodbyes. Paris was strange to me then: freezing cold, snowy, covered in soot and terrorised by the OAS, who were fighting to keep Algeria a province of France. My childish heart was not impressed, not least because of the time of grieving which was creeping up on me.
In ’71, however, my now adult mind saw the beauty everywhere, fascinating history on every corner and a glimmer of what “savoir vivre” can mean in day-to-day living, which tempted my senses. I can still smell in memory the mysterious vanilla-like odour that used to pervade the Metro, allegedly a melange of burnt rubber from the train tyres and Gauloises cigarettes. As in marriage, much has changed, but I am still very much in love, having accumulated 23 years as a Parisian during three different stays.
Paradoxically, although I love the idea of Paris which Willy Ronis portrayed and while his images are iconic, I have a nagging, disrespectful feeling that they are somehow too styled to be digestible. A touch kitsch, if you like. That said, I do not deny the sincerity of his poetic gaze nor do I see them as having been staged, such as is suspected about Doisneau’s famous “kiss”.
Perhaps my childhood sense of the dark underbelly of La Ville Lumiere”, from where dozens of my family were deported into nothingness in 1943 persists in my choice to photograph the place, rather than the people, as he did.
Which brings me to the exception in today’s image. In the midst of the strangest year of my existence, with the city I love struggling with a tiny, ferocious foe, I left home, having been indoors for months with only the company of my beloved wife. Covid isolation and fear of loss initiated a desire to reach out to others and technology rose magnificently to this bizarre challenge, so I was, and remain, in closer contact with many more people than previously. This is a joy and a gift of 2020.
Being physically in someone’s presence also became a more desired experience, particularly the chance to share the innocence, joy and imagination of children.
As I strolled around a nearly empty capital I came across this little boy, unaffected by the strangeness of an empty Place de La Concorde, nor of its grandeur, but simply joyful that he could play in the middle of the road.
Even as I captured the image, my visual memory made me aware that I was having a Ronis moment. For once, I experienced his Parisian “moment decisive” and shared in his desire to capture a glimpse of something that makes this city special. In that moment I was able to wink at his photographic achievements and respect his memory.
The Year Of New Beginnings
The past year has been a true “memento mori” and I have resolved, to step out of my recent monastic practice of “le sixième art” and share myself and my work with you, in the hope that you will receive some of the joy that that this passion has given me for a lifetime.
Camera: Nikon D850
Lens: Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR
Vibration Reduction: Off
Focal Length: 70mm
Focus Mode : AF-S
Auto Focus-Area Mode: Single
Shutter Speed: 1/1250s
Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
ISO Sensitivity: 400
Copyright Paul Grayson 2020 All Rights Reserved
Keywords: 2020, Boy, Concorde, de, Football, la, Nikon 70-200mm VR zoom, Paris, Paul Grayson, Photeinos, Place, Ronis, φωτεινος
Magnifique ! La présence solitaire de l'enfant ajoute au vide de la ville... Très bien vu !
Le choix du noir et blanc est judicieux.
Bravo encore ! J'attends la suite avec impatience.
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