French Ministry of Culture and Communication

Paris (France). The French Ministry of Culture and Communication is located in the heart of Paris (just behind the Louvre, and close to Rue Saint Honoré) and is a very interesting example of contemporary architecture. The façade was designed and realized by Francis Soler in 2004, but what few people know is that the design was freely inspired by the painting of Giulio Romano at Palazzo Tè in Mantova: the architect said that he used the computer to deform people in Giulio Romano’s paintings, transforming each human being into a sort of arabesque. The name of this modern sculpture is “The Silver Net” (in French, “Résille argentée”) and the entire façade has been made of laser-cut stainless steel sheets.

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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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RER B at Drancy (from Charles de Gaulle Airport to Paris)

Paris (France). I have been using the RER B between the Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) and Paris downtown for some years. Every time I try to find a window seat because I like watching the city’s “banlieu” (the periphery), how it progressively changes getting closer to the heart of Paris, how people live and work in those neighborhoods, so different from the city I’m approaching. It gets easily something like a movie, being the window a large screen…

Sometimes through the window I like to shoot some photos: just random captures of stations and people – if any – waiting for their train, talking each other, playing with their phones or listening to some music. There isn’t a specific idea behind this action of photographing something which is totally decontextualized (does this word exist?) from my usual style. Or maybe the reason is exactly this: trying to describe the unknown, eventually working with my fantasy to build a story behind each situation.

The result is a set of just random shoots of what I see, linked each other only by the fact that they have been captures on the RER B from Paris, Aeroporte Charles de Gaulle and Paris Chatelet des Halles.

Here I was stopped at Drancy station, for example. I like people the architecture of the station, with its geometries, and the man climbing the ladder to leave this place. Everyone is free to find her own story behind this situation. I already have mine…

I will consider shooting some more photos in the future.


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Love is (not) dead

Paris (France). Photographing around Le Marais, in Paris… I’m afraid that the 2015 will be remembered for the horrible terrorist attacks in Paris. First in January, then in November: for two times the heart of the city was taken hostage by armed men, and several people were killed.

But still I want to to think that with just a couple of words properly positioned, it’s still possible to declare that “love is not dead”…

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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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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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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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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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