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Paris

Believer at Saint Germain des Pres Church in Paris

Paris (France). A couple of days ago, I posted a photograph which was “conceptually” similar to this one: it was portraying some women in the praying room at the Eyup Sultan Mosque in Istanbul (clicking here you can open it in a new window). And when I was watching this photograph here – a woman praying at the Saint Germain des Pres Church in Paris – I instinctively imagined a comparison to the one taken in Istanbul. This thing originated the following consideration…

Comparing a Church and a Mosque does not make sense at all, since they are completely different for many aspect including for example their architecture, organization, behaviors, decorations and – last but not least – attending people. But, I think, comparing their mysticism indeed does make sense. Well, I’m not here to discuss and compare if Churches are more mystic than Mosques or vice versa, of course: it would be quite stupid and limited. What I’m simply saying is that when I visit a Church or a Mosque, the first thing I try to perceive and to understand – as a possible “common point” – is the sense of vicinity that believers can feel praying their god – whatever is the name.

Ironically, mysticism is probably the only aspect you cannot openly photograph – in a Church as in a Mosque – unless (and it is not always the case) you try to include believers in the composition. And this is what I try to do! For this reason I find fascinating, albeit challenging, photographing the interiors of places of worship: because through them, and their intimate moment of pray, I try to express the mysticism of the place where I am.

 

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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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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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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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Paris Sky

Paris (France). One of the never annoying things to do in Paris is simply watching its sky! Clouds, sunsets, colors… they always mix themselves up, creating often unique and impressive landscapes. This picture was taken last Saturday from Place de la Concorde (Tuilieres Garden); a dark, thick and threatening cloud was coming above my head, but at the same time a warm and reassuring sunset was coloring the sky behind the Tour Eiffel. The entire contrast was pretty exciting and impressive: from one side there was an “Armageddon style” situation, from the other one something more romantic and calm. I guess you want to know what happened at the end: you won’t believe me, but yes – it did not rain! I told you: watch the sky of Paris, you won’t get annoyed easily…

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The Supremacy of Man Over Other Creatures (at the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris)

Paris (France). As in my previous post, this is the result of some hours spent playing with a Leica Summicron-M 1:2/50 lens at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, inside the Gallery of Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy (Les galeries d’anatomie comparée et de paléontologie).


Parigi. Come nel mio post precedente, questo è il risultato di alcune ore passate giocando con un obbiettivo Leica Summicron-M 1:2/50 al Museo Nazionale di Storia Naturale, all’interno della Galleria di Paleontologia e di Anatomia Comparata (Les galeries d’anatomie comparée et de paléontologie).

 

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A Bottom-Up Approach

Paris (France). I cannot imagine how many people every day take this photo, probably thousands. However, it’s a very challenging shot, since you must find the exact symmetry point, stand well stable and keep the camera on a perfect horizontal plane.

In my case, it was even a bit more tough, because I was testing using the manual focus lens Nikon 55mm f/1.2 AI. It’s an old Nikon glass (it dates back to 1977, almost like me!) but I found it quite impressive in terms of sharpness and precision. And – no need to say – shooting in manual focus is something different, difficult to explain!

I’m confident this will be one of my favorite lens in my bag! I have some more shots from the same photographic tour, I will post them within the next days!

Ah, maybe you are still wondering what is represented here in this photograph: it’s a bottom-up view of the Eiffel Tower in Paris…

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