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Few assignments can spur as much excitement and dread in a photographer as the world famous “City of Light”. After all, Paris is one of the most recognizable cities in the world. Its monuments adorn posters and products sold in markets located in the farthest reaches of the globe, its cobblestone streets are staples in romantic films and novels, and its culinary offerings can be found everywhere from gourmet restaurants to your local fast-food hamburger franchise. The question becomes: How can anyone photograph a place that has been so widely represented so many times before? Is it really possible to show the world a side of Paris that has yet to be seen? It is a conundrum of the highest order; one that demands that we find a way to photograph a well-loved and world-renowned city full of easily recognizable monuments, historical locations, and architecture in such a way as to feel fresh, innovative, and alive- all while acknowledging the timelessness that permeates it.
This is the challenge that drove us as we moved throughout the city that Hemingway termed “a moveable feast”, and the sumptuous variety of Paris quickly became evident during our daily explorations of the city’s twenty arrondissements. Through the Latin and North African Quarters, from Versailles to the Louvre, and in countless highly individual neighborhoods in between, we sampled the flavor of Paris, in all of its rich complexity. Neon signs adorn the brickwork of five hundred year old hotels and pubs, teenagers practice futbol moves on the steps to Sacre Coeur while a wedding party poses for photographs nearby, and exotic foods and materials are displayed in immigrant street markets throughout the city. Indeed, the “City of Light” now calls to people from around the world, having expanded from her historical role as an artists’ haven and bohemian paradise. Today, Paris has evolved into a beacon of the ideals of her revolution, gathering to her streets masses of people from all over the world in search of a new home that promises the possibility of the liberty, equality, and fraternity that were the loftiest goals of the French revolution.
The variety of individuals and cultures that make up this influx of humanity have given the city a transfusion of new blood, and the vitality that the metropolis enjoys as a result has added color and texture to the well-known landscape of the city. If one wanders freely, as we did, then one cannot help but to be immersed in the continuous evolution that is Paris. Even as the familiarity of the city comforts us with its ever-present history and the timeless quality its monuments and cobblestone streets evoke, the changing face of the city and her neighborhoods- now rich with cultural variety and a population that can only be described as global- offer us a view of Paris in the making. As a result, we have been given a rare, privileged look at not only the history of Paris and its present state, but also of the future of “La Ville de Lumiere” as it continues to unfold before us. It is this unfolding that became the answer to our initial challenge, and it is our hope that you will enjoy our efforts to show you a Paris you have perhaps always known, but have never seen- at least not quite like this. -Jessica Y. Neasbitt, 2011