This project is a personal photographic essay, a juxtaposition of two wonderful, deeply layered, cities, Paris and New York. Since moving to France in 2004 I’ve been using the camera to record street life in Paris, from the small nuances that make Paris unique, to current events that often take place in this world cultural center. Often the two blend. Most images are simply whimsical snapshots of what I sense, often the result of walking and waiting, walking some more, and sometimes talking to strangers out of curiosity.
A couple years ago I photographed the yearly gala dinner of the American Library in Paris. The guest speaker was Adam Gopnik and author of “Paris to the Moon”. He gave a lovely speech about what he calls “commonplace civilization” and drew several comparisons between his home, New York, and Paris where he had lived for several years with his wife, raising their young son and writing for the New Yorker Magazine. Mr. Gopnik spoke as eloquently about Paris during the dinner as he had described it in his book. Paris, like New York, is a place where life unfolds in front of you in parks, in cafes, or simply on a random street corner. In “Paris to the Moon” Gopnik often refers back to the Jardin du Luxembourg where he spent many hours watching his son playing with other kids, and most importantly riding the old carousel. He made parallels with Central Park in New York City, which also serves as a playground for the young and old alike.
With Gopnik’s wonderfully humorous prose in the back of my mind I traveled to New York City in October of 2008 with the aid of a prize that I had been awarded by National Geographic France and Air France. I attended a week long workshop with Alex and Rebecca Norris Webb, which focused on improving one’s own photographic vision in the Big Apple. Each day was a new visual journey, finding one’s way in a foreign city with his or her camera in hand. After a day or two of exploring, I began to feel that as Gopnik had acknowledged, there were indeed several subtle commonalities between Paris and New York, but also many marked differences. Perhaps it was just the feeling I had that in both cities I could let the camera guide me, often for several hours on foot, only to realize that an unpredictable moment would appear when I least expected it. There is an edgy play of color and a peculiar connection between people, places and things that resonates in Paris and New York. However, many ordinary occurrences also seem disconnected and slightly out of control.
I intend to continue this project into the unforeseeable future. There are few things more enjoyable than allowing oneself to become lost in a city with his or her camera. It is a challenging act of complete freedom and personal meditation that never ceases to encourage personal growth, self-understanding, and close contact with one’s surroundings.
Website | www.davidbacher.com
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