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La Defense

A Good Reason to Bring My Leica with Me at Work (Paris Nanterre from La Defense)

Paris (France). Friends and colleagues find amusing that I always bring one of my photo-cameras with me, even regardless the fact that sometimes I’m a bit overloaded. But when out of my window there’s a sunset like this one photographed here, I’m sure that I’m right…

I was at La Defense some days ago, and this is the view from my office’s window (which luckily is pretty clean). I love watching this type of urban landscapes from such a high position: they make me feel incredibly small, just a drop in a sea of people. Behind every small window there’s a person, a life, a work, an activity… I find it extremely motivating and involving, and this is the perfect feeling – for me – to decide catching my camera and taking a photo.


Parigi. Gli amici e i colleghi spesso si divertono del fatto che mi porti sempre dietro una macchina fotografica, anche in considerazione del fatto che qualche volta sono in effetti un po’ sovraccarico. Ma quando fuori dalla finestra c’è un tramonto come questo fotografato qui, mi convinco che ho ragione io…

Ero a La Defense alcuni giorni fa, e questa è la vista che c’è fuori dalla finestra del mio ufficio (che per fortuna è piuttosto pulita). Amo osservare questo tipo di panorama urbano da una posizione così alta: mi fa sentire incredibilmente piccolo, una goccia in un mare di persone. Dietro ogni piccola finestra c’è una persona, una vita, un lavoro, un’attività… Trovo tutto ciò estremamente motivante e coinvolgente, e questo è la sensazione ideale – per me – per decidere di prendere la mia macchina fotografica e scattare una foto.

 

 

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City Lights Rainy Nights (in Paris)

Paris (France). Rain in Paris is not necessarily an bad event. I like photographing the city’s landscape with raindrops running down the window’s glass. Here, I was at the 38th floor of a building (the EDF Tower at La Defense), definitely a privileged position for such landscapes.


Parigi. Parigi con la pioggia può non essere così male. Mi piace fotografare il panorama urbano con le gocce d’acqua che scendono giù lungo il vetro della finestra. Qui ero al 38esimo piano di un palazzo (la Torre EDF a La Defense), decisamente una posizione privilegiata per questo tipo di panorami.

 

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Catching the Last Minute of Daylight (from the EDF Tower at La Defense)

Paris (France). Paris, Le Defense, watching out of the window at five minutes to six P.M. There is the very last minute of daylight out there, and I can’t resist from preparing my camera for a long exposure photo – through the thick window glass, though. The quasi-tripod I have built seems sturdy enough to keep my small and light Ricoh GR camera unmovable in the same position for some seconds and no matter how I’m dressed, I’m on my knees to check the composition and the final settings adjustment.

My colleague sitting in my office is laughing at me in that bizarre position … 3 – 2 – 1 – click! This photo is dedicated to her.


Parigi. La Defense, guardo fuori dalla finestra mentre mancano cinque minuti alle sei di sera. Fuori c’è l’ultimo bagliore di luce, e non resisto dal preparare la mia macchina fotografica per una foto con un’esposizione lunga, sebbene ci sia di mezzo uno spesso vetro. La specie di treppiede che ho costruito sembra abbastanza solido da mantenere la mia piccola e leggera Ricoh GR immobile nella stessa posizione per alcuni secondi e – non importa come sono vestito – mi metto in ginocchio per controllare la composizione e gli ultimi settaggi.

La collega che siede nel mio ufficio ride di me in quella strana posizione … tre – due – uno – click! Questa foto è dedicata a lei.

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La Ville-Lumière (La Defense)

Paris (France). Paris is often referred as “La Ville Lumière” (the “City of Light”) for its key role during the Age of Enlightenment. But to me Paris is also the city of sunsets: a different way to interpretate the word “Lumière”…

I love – when I’m in Paris and I have time – to climb up to the terrace at the Arc de Triomphe, watching the skyline of La Dèfense from there. When I can even choose the time of my visit, I prefer of course the sunset (I love the Parisian summer sunsets, when the sun goes down very late) and I remain hypnotised and mesmerised by the landscape. Sometimes the sky gets coloured with a lovely warm orange tone, which creates a very nice contrast with the tall buildings at the end of the Avenue de la Grande Armée and Avenue Charles de Gaulle. Despite the long distance (more or less 4 or 5 kilometres in line) the majesty of the buildings make this complex look like it is much closer to the downtown.

And turning back of 180 degrees, there’s the rest of Paris with its low houses and regular roofs: another nice contrast that makes the terrace of the Arc de Triomphe a “must-dos” in Paris.

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Father and Son in the Mouth of the Monster (La Defense, Paris)

Paris (France). This is what happens when someone (like me) watches all the eight episodes of “Stranger Things” in two days! As I finished this series, I had to go to Paris for business, and during a pre-dinner photo-walk around La Défense, my attention was captured by this (questionable) installation, which looks like a monstrous spiral. Observing a father with his son passing through it, had triggered my fantasy and gave me the feeling that this horrible creature was going to capture two poor innocent victims, to bring them into the meanderings of the concrete skeleton.

Thankfully, shortly after I had to go to dinner…


Paris. Questo è quello che succede quando uno guarda tutti e otto gli episodi di “Stranger Things” in due giorni! Appena finita la serie, sono dovuto andare a Parigi per lavoro, e durante una passeggiata fotografica attorno a La Défense prima di cena, la mia attenzione è rimasta catturata da questa struttura artistica (di discutibile pregio) che forma una sorta di spirale mostruosa. Il vedere passare attraverso di essa un padre con un figlio, ha scatenato la mia fantasia, dandomi la sensazione che questa creatura mostruosa stesse per catturare due povere vittime innocenti per trascinarle nei meandri di uno scheletro di cemento.

Per fortuna poco dopo sono dovuto andare a cena…

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The Euler Hermes Building (Paris – La Défense)

Paris (France). I always bring at least one camera with me and normally, unless I know I will have the opportunity of dedicating half an hour to shooting around (and then I will bring a dedicated camera plus some lenses) I use the Ricoh GR: fast, precise and perfectly fitting in my pocket.

Some days ago, I was again staying at the Melia Hotel La Défense (here there’s another photo taken from the hotel’s sky bar) and my room was facing the back of the Euler Hermes head quarter’s building. Since it was around 7 PM, lights in the building were still switched on and the offices were fully illuminated, although there were very few people inside. Attracted by that sort of modern “honeybee farm”, I darkened my room and I staid several minutes watching an unusual “landscape”.

Two things were hypnotizing me. The first one, its geometries (it’s pretty normal in my case). But the second one was represented by all the possible stories nested within that context: how many stories of success, of failure, of career, of ambition, of frustration have been told in those offices? Not to mention private life stories, loves, jealousies, friendships and so on. In a certain sense – I hope I’m able to explain myself and make my thoughts clear – I found this glassed wall, especially if combined with the illuminated interiors, like a sort of disclosure to my eyes of the “office life”: something that from inside, with all those walls and doors, cannot be perceived.

Maybe I’m too romantic. Or probably, I was a bit stressed for the day and I just wanted to relax a bit, thinking about something else and disconnecting my mind from business affairs. In any case, I found in the interiors of the Euler Hermes offices an interesting subject: before the lights were off, I took my camera and photographed the scene to share it here.

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Night Walk at La Defense, Paris

Paris (France). As I anticipated in my previous post, I was in Paris in the past two days. More precisely, it was a very short stay, only 24 hours: quite frustrating, especially if you bring with yourself the illusion of having the time for a couple of photos (as I normally do).

Anyway, it was not so bad: as I usually do in these case, I don’t bring anything but a small Ricoh GR camera, which perfectly stays in my raincoat pocket and offers good performances. I was walking back from the restaurant to the hotel, when I noticed this “landscape”. The illuminated skyline of La Defense was there saying to me: “hey man, take a picture of me!”. It was only a matter of finding something of stable on which putting the camera previously programmed for a long exposure shot, to capture the  nice effect of light trails.

And that’s it: this is the final result. Not my best photo of the past days, but still something I enjoyed to do: isn’t it the backbone of my passion for photography?

P.S. Tomorrow I will go – again! – to Paris. Let’s see if this time I will be a bit less overwhelmed and I will find time for a walk taking some photos on the street.

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Landscape of Paris from the Hotel Melia La Défense

Paris (France). Here we are: in a couple of days it will be Christmas, and with it the end of 2015 is approaching. Time flies, and the last months have been characterized by a very (too much!) hectic life… I traveled so frequently in the last period, that in few weeks I upgraded my frequent flyer status directly to gold. Almost all my trips have been to / from Paris; and almost all my stays in Paris have been limited to La Defense – which is not exactly the most exotic place in town.

However…

The last time I was there, I spent a night at the Hotel Melia, one of the many hotels around the Esplanade de la Defense; and although it was what is normally recognized as a business hotel, there was a nice sky bar with an open air terrace. Of course, after dinner, I could not resist the temptation and I went there with my camera, looking for a stable place to put it for this long-exposure shot.

Paris has something…

It’s not my favorite city where shooting photos because – probably – it is “overphotographed” (I do not think this word exists). However, every time I see a landscape of Paris, I remain fixed in a sort of contemplation. Especially from La Defense, the city looks flat with few churches’ domes, illuminated streets and – of course – the Tour Eiffel. And a sense of “need of taking an original photo” pervades me, like a challenge, probably a reaction to what I was saying with my neologism… I’m never sure enough I accomplish my mission, and in this occasion is the same story; but I liked the final result of this capture, with the illuminated tower and its strong light-rays completing the scene.

And since I’m not sure I will be able to post something before Christmas, I will use this image to share my best wishes with all my readers and followers.

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Afterwork at the Esplanade de la Defense n.1

Paris (France). I frequently spend my after-work time walking around La Défense, a place where I come frequently (even now I’m on a flight from Milan to Paris); and that I have been photographing for years (most of my photos at La Defense are posted under this tag expressly created). Every time I wonder the same questions about this place. Do I like it? Honestly, I don’t know. How it could be living here? I can hardly answer this question too, and I admit I find myself watching residents trying to understand how is the quality of their lives. But the question in absolute terms most difficult to answer is always the same: how will be this place in – I don’t know, let’s say – ten years?

Yet, I must admit that in terms of photography, La Defense is still one of the most interesting places to explore in Paris; its architectures and its urban development are worth being analysed with attention, especially because they reveal a sort of historical stratification. Since the end of the ’50s, with the construction of the CNIT (Centre des nouvelles industries et technologies) building, through the ’70s and the ’80s with buildings such as the Tour Areva and the Tour Total, until beginning of 2000 with the erection of more futuristic skyscrapers like the Tour EDF, La Defense has become the largest business park in Europe.

Very personally, the feeling I have when I walk along its extended “Esplanade”, between the Grand Arche and the fountain close to Neully-sur-Seine, is the one of a place that has begun a slow but relentless and conscious decadence (even if embellished by marvelous early fall sunsets), and that for some aspects is even proud of it, according to the most typical Parisian style. The economic crisis, which has not spared France, the competition with other “banlieues”, which are trying to attract similar developments, and the transportation network, which has already reached its maximum capacity and therefore can’t increase the number of commuters transported daily, are posing serious obstacles to the growth of this area and probably it couldn’t be different.

If it’s true that knowing the past is necessary to understand the future, I think that the future of La Defense is written into its glorious (albeit unique) past, in its having been a symbol for the 20th century’s city planners, but also a place that has lost its leadership in favor of new different models. But It is still a place that is worth being visited and photographed, possibly posing some questions: and if someone has the answer(s) to mine, I’d be glad to know it.


Parigi. La Defense è una zona di Parigi che frequento molto per lavoro (anche adesso sono su un volo da Milano a Parigi) e dove mi capita spesso di camminare: nel tempo ho scattato diverse fotografie, che pubblico qui nel blog con un tag appositamente creato, e ogni volta mi interrogo su come sia questo posto. Mi piace? Non lo so. Come potrebbe essere vivere qui? Anche questa sinceramente è una domanda a cui rispondo a fatica, tanto che – lo ammetto – mi ritrovo a guardare con curiosità i residenti, cercando di capire la qualità della loro vita. Ma la domanda in assoluto più difficile è sempre la stessa: come sarà questo posto tra – non so, diciamo – dieci anni?

Eppure, devo ammettere che dal punto di vista fotografico rimane uno dei posti più interessanti di Parigi da esplorare; le sue architetture e il suo sviluppo urbanistico meritano di essere osservate con attenzione, soprattutto perché rivelano una sorta di “stratificazione” storica. Tra la fine degli anni ’50, con la costruzione dell’edificio CNIT (Centre des nouvelles industries et technologies), attraverso gli anni ’70 e ’80 con edifici come la Torre Areva e la Torre Total, fino a inizio 2000 con la realizzazione di grattacieli più avveniristici (tra cui la Torre EDF), La Defense ha visto uno sviluppo che l’ha portata a essere il più grande centro direzionale d’Europa.

Molto personalmente, la sensazione che si ha camminando dopo una giornata di lavoro lungo la sua enorme “Esplanade”, dal Grand Arche alla fontana in prossimità di Neully-sur-Seine, è quella di un posto che ha iniziato una lenta ma inesorabile e consapevole decadenza (magari abbellita dai meravigliosi tramonti di inizio autunno), e che per certi aspetti riesce ad andare fiero di questa cosa, nel più classico stile parigino. La crisi economica che ha colpito anche la Francia, la competizione di altre zone della banlieue che cercano di attirare analoghi sviluppi urbanistici e la saturazione dei mezzi di trasporto che difficilmente potrebbero portare nuovi afflussi di persone, stanno creando dei seri ostacoli alla crescita di questa area, e probabilmente non potrebbe essere diversamente.

Se è vero che per capire il futuro bisogna conoscere il passato, penso che il futuro di questo posto sia scritto nella sua storia gloriosa ma irripetibile, nel suo essere stato un luogo simbolo per l’urbanistica del ventesimo secolo ma che oggi ha perso la sua leadership a favore di altri modelli. Ma che rimane un posto da vedere, da fotografare, e sul quale porsi certe domande: e se qualcuno – alle mie – può darmi una risposta, sarei ben lieto di saperlo.

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