Seeing these ‘Then & Now’ pictures of Paris by Eugene Atget are striking, showing the parallel between the late 1800s/early 1900s and the past several months as the pandemic has taken hold of the world and forced people to stay at home. I have loved photography since I was in high school and took a few black & white dark room photography classes. I was also in the photography club that met on Fridays after school. I have been in awe of Atget’s photographs since my family took a trip to France for three weeks one summer when I was in high school. His photographs are eerie, majestic, and magical depictions of Paris, laced in fog and devoid of people. He achieved these dreamy scenes by getting up early and taking photographs before the streets swelled with Parisians and tourists.
The present day photos of Paris during the pandemic were taken by Mauricio Lima, who has followed in Atget’s footsteps and recreated the same scenes. The lesson learned from both Atget’s and Lima’s depictions of Paris is that people may need Paris, but Paris does not need people. It stands in its grandeur, with or without its inhabitants and visitors. I don’t quite know what to make of this, whether to be comforted or insulted, but I think we can all rest assured that the magic of Paris can endure and outlast adversity.