La Defense

Paris from La Defense (With its Architectures) at Sunrise

Paris (France). My followers could start thinking that I have a sort of obsession for Paris, and particularly for the district of La Defense, since I have been posting photos from these places for several days. No, it’s not true – at least I don’t believe so. The point is that I’m frequently travelling to Paris for business, and I love bringing my camera with me to capture some photos and relax a little bit. With the fall arriving, there are marvelous sunrises with the sky getting red just behind the Tour Eiffel, and it’s a shame not getting the opportunity of photographing it!

Yesterday early morning, just after my wake-up, I was watching outside my hotel’s window and my attention was catalyzed by a huge condominium, similar to those ones in the peripheries of Moscow or Shanghai, made with many apartments all alike, but incredibly captivating. I took advantage of the warm sunrise light to photograph it, including the Tour Eiffel just to add a typical Parisian contrast to this composition.

At a later time I tried to find some more information and I discovered that the name of this condominium is “L’immeuble Bellini” (from the name of the underlying street) and that it is the first residential building at La Defense. It was designed by the architect Jean de Mailly in 1957 and it hosts 560 apartments. The following year, de Mailly designed the CNIT and in 1966 the opposite tower, known with the name “Tour Initiale” (the original name was “Tour Nobel“), which today houses the RTE’s headquarter.

I’m more and more convinced that to know – and at a certain extent to further appreciate – Paris, it’s necessary going beyond its “arrondissement” and its glimpses seen thousands of times (I’m talking as a photographer and as a tourist) to discover its recent past that in one way or another, has many stories to tell.

Parigi. Chi segue il mio blog potrebbe pensare che ho una specie di ossessione per Parigi e in particolar modo per il quartiere de La Defense, dal momento che ultimamente sto postando parecchie foto da questi posti. No, non è così – almeno non credo. Il fatto è che sono spesso lì per lavoro, e amo portarmi la macchina fotografica per scattare qualche immagine e rilassarmi un po’. E come ogni anno, con l’arrivo dell’autunno si iniziano a vedere delle albe bellissime, con il cielo rosso proprio dietro la Tour Eiffel, ed è un peccato non approfittarne!

Ieri mattina appena alzato, mentre guardavo fuori dalla finestra del mio albergo, la mia attenzione è stata catturata da un enorme condominio, simile a quelli che si vedono nelle periferie di Mosca o di Shanghai, fatto di appartamenti tutti uguali, eppure nel suo genere incredibilmente affascinante. Ho approfittato della calda luce dell’alba per fotografarlo, includendo la Tour Eiffel giusto per aggiungere un contrasto tipicamente parigino a questa composizione.

Successivamente, volendomi documentare, sono andato a cercare alcune informazioni, e ho scoperto che questo condominio si chiama “L’immeuble Bellini” (dal nome della strada sottostante) e che è stato il primo edificio residenziale a La Defense. Fu progettato dall’architetto Jean de Mailly nel 1957 e conta 560 appartamenti. L’anno successivo lo stesso de Mailly ha progettato il CNIT, e nel 1966 il grattacielo antistante a L’immeuble Bellini, conosciuto con il nome di “Tour Initiale” (ma una volta si chiamava “Tour Nobel“) che oggi ospita la sede di RTE.

Sono sempre più convinto che per conoscere – e per certi versi apprezzare maggiormente – Parigi, sia necessario uscire dai suoi “arrondissement” e dai suoi scorci visti mille volte (parlo anche da fotografo, oltre che da turista) per andare alla scoperta del suo recente passato che in un modo o nell’altro ha molte storie da raccontare.

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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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From My Room at Sofitel Hotel La Defense (Residence Vision 80)

Paris (France). I frequently photograph the landscape out of the windows of the hotels where I stay. I do it to give a sense to an experience – staying in the room of a hotel – otherwise anonymous and a bit alienating. Sometimes I’m very lucky (such as in this case); some others not so much (here’s an example)…

Days ago I was one more time in Paris, and I staid at Sofitel La Défense hotel. This is the landscape from my room: the strong contrast between the low horizontal residence (its name is Residence Vision 80) inspired by Le Corbusier’s architecture, and the vertical skyscrapers rising in the background, has captured my attention immediately. For this reason, I waited for the sunset’s light painting the facades with a soft orange tone to capture this image, in my opinion quite interesting.

Paris. Fotografo spesso il panorama che vedo dalle finestre degli alberghi dove alloggio. Lo faccio per dare un senso a un’esperienza – quella di stare in una stanza di hotel – altrimenti anonima è anche un po’ alienante. A volte sono molto fortunato (come in questo caso), altre volte meno (ecco un esempio)…

Giorni fa ero di nuovo a Parigi, e ho soggiornato al Sofitel La Défense. Questa era la vista dalla mia stanza: il forte contrasto tra il residence basso e lungo (si chiama Residence Vision 80) fortemente ispirato ai principi architettonici di Le Corbusier, e i grattacieli retrostanti che salgono dritti verticali, ha catturato il mio interesse da subito. Per questo ho aspettato che la luce del tramonto dipingesse di un leggero tono arancione le facciate per scattare questa foto a mio avviso abbastanza interessante.

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Contemplating Paris from La Défense

Paris (France). The initial idea was giving to this post a title such as “why I love shooting landscape photos with an old inexpensive 180 mm prime lens”, but at the end I thought it would have been a bit irrespectful for the old inexpensive 180 mm prime lens, which is- by the way – one of my favorite lenses for shooting landscape photos …

OK, let’s try to be serious now. I have taken this image yesterday early morning on my way from the “Esplanade de la Défense”, a large square perfectly aligned with the Arc de Triomphe and the Grande Arche, to my office. The sunrise was simply perfect, with a soft and gentle light colouring the sky with a warm orange tone. Photographing a landscape like this is more than just composing the frame, focusing the scene and clicking: the situation is at the same time calm (given by the sky) and chaotic (with the traffic along the Avenue de la Grande-Armée and the Avenue Charles-de-Gaulle at Neuilly-sur-Seine), and what I try every time to do is balancing these two opposite aspects, so that the observer can find indifferently one of them.

And for me it’s the same: I can observe this photo and think about the sense of calm I had yesterday morning at sunrise, but at the same time I can concentrate my eyes on the central stripe of traffic and be more distracted by the chaos. And – back to the beginning of the post – I believe that this perfect balance of feelings is given by a(n old inexpensive) 180 mm prime lens, which compresses the scene and puts the detail on the same plane of the general context. Here’s why I love shooting landscape photos with my amazing 180 mm tele lens!

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Entre-temps à La Défense… (In the meantime at La Défense…)

Paris (France). This photograph represents the typical “merge” between my work and my biggest passion! The first one makes me travel very frequently, whereas the second one makes me bring my Leica Q always with me.

The last week I was once again in Paris, at La Défense (technically, La Défense is not Paris, since it’s located in the so called “banlieu”, the Paris Metropolitan Area, and is shared among different municipalities; however, there’s a total urban continuity between Paris and La Défense). With my office at the 38th floor of the very tall EDF Tower, it’s pretty easy to be distracted by the landscape outside my window, and I love sometimes stopping to work and moving my eyes far from the laptop screen.

This image posted here is the landscape I captured some days ago, at sunset. It was late afternoon and the sun was against me: I liked the effect it was giving to this landscape, with the intense blue and orange sky, and with thick clouds filtering the sun rays. I took my Leica from my bag and I made some photos through the window’s glass (luckily, it was clean!).

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A Storm Is Coming Over Paris

Paris (France). This photograph here shows how was the sky over Paris today: although landing at Charles de Gaulle Airport was a bit “tough” due to strong winds and heavy rains, I must admit that once arrived at destination, these thick and dark clouds were pretty impressive. Impossible resisting from photographing such an amazing landscape!

It’s not the first time I write about the sky of Paris, and I’m firmly convinced that it’s one of the most beautiful and surprising sky I have ever seen. It is – let me say – “charismatic”. Yes, this is the most suitable definition: the sky above Paris is charismatic. I like this sentence, I will very probably use it again soon…

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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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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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Getting Used to This Landscape (Long Shadows at La Défense)

Paris (France). Here I’m one more time on my way to Paris La Défense. Today is rainy, so I went through my photo archive and I found this image taken the last week when the weather was definitely much better. When I captured this photograph, it was early morning and the sun was rising up, shaping long shadows on the Esplanade de la Défense: another place for my personal collection in “chiaroscuro” (after Venice and Milan)…

As written in the title, “I’m getting used to this landscape”, but I can’t complain of it of course! And – as stated many times – this offers to me great stimulus to bring one of my cameras (in this case, the small powerful Ricoh GR) always with me. But beyond this, I want to share some thoughts about “getting used to” something…

Time ago, I noticed an interesting quote. Here’s what it was saying:

The hardest thing about getting over someone is getting used to them not being there, because it goes from talking everyday, to nothing…

I think it can be easily transposed from people to places:

The hardest thing about getting over someone a place or a landscape is getting used to them not being there, because it goes from talking photographing them everyday, to nothing

How many places around the world are worth “getting used to them” because of being there? In other words, how many places around the world I would like to photograph forever? Is there any “cross” subject that I could photograph independently on how my passion for photography is mutating?

It’s definitely not an easy question, especially considering how my personal relationship with photography changes constantly time after time…

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