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Paris

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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Paris Gare du Nord Train Station

Paris (France). I have always had a special feeling for train stations. It’s a feeling coming from a mix of interests: I like trains, I like watching people, and I like observing the architectures. For this reason there are some places that I consider “magic”. One of them is the train station “Gare du Nord” in Paris. Although its architecture comes from mid of the 19th century, this place is still one of the most crowded station of Paris (well, to be honest with its 190 millions of passengers, it’s the most crowded station in the whole Europe and the second one in the world after Japan!). High speed trains (the international Thalis and the national TGV) depart from here to many destinations, including the north of France but also London, Amsterdam and Cologne.

When I took this photo it was Friday afternoon: I guess that the majority of people going to jump on the train were commuters going back home for the weekend. I liked to stay for quite a long time with my back leaning against the lamppost, trying to be invisible and – most important – sturdy in the middle of this people’s “flow”. I used a wide angle lens (at that time I was travelling with a Fuji X-T1 camera coupled with a 10-24 mm lens) to emphasize the beauty of the large truss sustaining the ceiling.

Now, every time I go to Paris (especially if I catch the RER B going from CDG Airport to Chatelet) I consider to stop at Gare du Nord. Beyond the perfect mix of interests mentioned at the beginning of the post, this place is also a great location for street photography – although the recent terrorism alerts (vigipirate) are creating some problems to photographers…

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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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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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Afterwork at the Esplanade de la Defense n.3

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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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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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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