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La Defense

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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Afterwork at the Esplanade de la Defense n.2

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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