I just bought my kid a book on Paris circa 1890 to 1920, and I thought I'd excerpt a few pictures here. My intention was to focus on the mean streets of turn-of-the-century Paris, the places where you could get killed after dark, but my computer wouldn't accept the pictures I scanned (probably they need to be reduced in size, a big task given the number of pictures), so I'm putting up mostly pictures I got off google. That's OK, I can still write about the subject, and the pictures here aren't bad.
How do you like this (above) hillside street? Boy, Paris was covered with advertising, even back then. The narrow, twisting street is in perfect proportion to the surrounding buildings, and the cobblestones give the street a texture, which is sadly missing from modern streets.
Here's (above) the same street, side by side with the street as it looks today. The modern version's been gentrified. Gone are the posters, the cobblestones, & some of the shops and street level doors and windows. I like shops. Without them buildings are featureless and boring at the street level. Why were they taken away?
The windows that remain are mostly shutterless now, and have arid, post-modern frames. Pretty rectangular windows have been replaced by ones that are more square, and out of sync with the shape of the building. And what happened to the nice-looking propane tank with the posters on it? What happened to the raised platform it was on? That was important to the composition! The people who own these houses should be slapped.
Here's (above) a picture I published a long time ago. I love the way old craftsmanship wraps around the side of a building, and nearly butts up against a blank wall on the right. Strangely, I don't mind. The blank wall makes you appreciate the detail on the other side. How do you like the way the way the high building on the right comes in at an oblique angle and cuts everything off? I wonder where that tunnel leads to? If it goes clear to the next street, then my admiration for the builder knows no bounds.
The poor people of Paris, including artists and writers, just about owned the hills (above) in the old days. This street is pretty much the same nowadays, except it's been cleaned up and gentrified. They should have kept it shabby.
Here's (above) a ledge running under the flying buttresses of a cathedral. A good city has lots of interesting out-of-the-way spots like this. Every artist should be permitted access to the ledge, so we can risk our lives running along it, and feeling the delicious spaces and volumes.
It's great to glimpse churches at the end of twisting, cobblestoned streets. My guess is that the building on the left has been altered from its original design. Good grief! People were gentrifying things even a hundred years ago! If only I could have seen this city before the re-construction in the 1860s! I like the way the church comes in at an oblique angle.
You have to click to enlarge this picture (above) to see why it's so special. The morning dew sits on the silent streets and spaces. The heavy, classical buildings sit on the ground like sleeping dinosaurs (that's intended to be a compliment). This scene reminds me of London and I half expect to see Eliza Dolittle selling flowers here.
I imagine workman who lived on the hill got plenty of use out of these steps. They'd have had to walk to work, even if that work was miles away. When I see this I imagine that I'm a dish washer in one of the big downtown hotels, and if I'm late for work the boss will boot me into the street and keep my pay. Disputes like this could only be settled with a knife!
The building on the right (above) is suspiciously featureless, but I already made my point about things like that. Paris has convinced me that every street should end facing an oblique or perpendicular street.