Paris - words and photographs

How do we come to feel as though we know a place? Time spent exploring alone and in the company of others. Tasting food and drink and conversing as best one can with fellow-travellers and locals. Sometimes one plunges headlong into a mad love affair whilst other times it is pleasure enough to watch others experience the outward trappings of love.

My relationship with Paris began suddenly in April of 2012. I worked with a French broadcaster, beIN SPORTS, via the digital agency that employed me and delivered a web site and mobile apps. For the rest of the year I spent a couple of days each week working in Paris, collaborating on the product roadmap.

The rhythm of the trips to and from London became a comforting but exhausting routine - tube or taxi from my flat to St Pancras, the Eurostar and discussions about product development and strategy with my colleague, picking up a carnet of tickets at the Gare du Nord and taking the 4 metro to Strasbourg Saint-Denis and changing over to the 9 all the way to Boulogne-Billancourt. Once there it was several hours of intense client meetings and then off to the hotel.

A French colleague recommended that we stay at Hotel Amour in the 9th Arrondissement, just off the Rue de Martyrs, south of Pigalle. Formerly a brothel, the over-the-top erotic decor of the rooms made each visit feel very un-corporate.  I would often dine in the bistro with the trendy and the beautiful or wander out into Paris with my colleagues and explore the city until midnight. Back at the hotel, the bartender would tell me of his plans to live and work in London and treat me to an Armagnac on the house.

The next morning I would often regret that final Armagnac from the night before and refuelled with a lovely croissant from Maison Landemaine. After suffering the hellish overcrowded carriages of Ligne 9 to Billancourt and another two hour client meeting it was back to the metro from the long ride back to Gare du Nord.

I brought a lightweight medium format camera with me on these business trips and long weekends. Whenever I wasn't at meetings or writing up briefs or in contact with my development team, I plunged headlong into the rush of Paris to photograph broad impressions and minor details. After years of describing my photographic work as "tales of a flâneur", I practised my art in the city that gave rise to the notion.

I came to know pieces of the city in the same way I familiarise myself with any place - repeated exploration, patient observation and reckless wandering. Such knowledge feels so fragile in a city - in a world - of constant change. With each visit, the facades and architectural texture felt familiar, but the flavour of the moment varied.  I know and do not know Paris, but I am enraptured by the moment every time I try to acquaint myself with the place. 

 For more of Paris, here are all the pictures I made on these fugitive forays.