How To Photograph Nostalgia And History In Glorious Paris

A contemporary black and white rendering of a Paris street scene, looking onto the Academie Nationale De Musique, evokes a sense of nostalgia in one of the world's most beautiful cities.

Paris is the most beautiful city in the world. That's the view of many experienced travelers. Well, while I’m sure it’s up there, I feel I need to visit many, many more cities before I can voice my own opinion on that subject.

I’ve visited both Paris and St. Petersburg during the summer. Of the two I’d have to say that, from a photographers point of view, St. Petersburg might just get the chocolates. But when comparing just two of the world’s great cities, I’m unsure. I’d really want to spend significantly longer periods of time in each city, which I certainly hope to, before I’d be comfortable in my opinion.

A detailed view of Paris expressed through this Metro sign.

How To Photograph Paris, The Living Museum

And, anyway, what criteria are we using to define a city? Thus far I’d say Salzburg and Bruges (Brugge for our Flemish friends) are my favorite cities at the lower end of the population scale. Paris probably sits somewhere between large and mega on the population scale. Does that mean we should have separate categories to accommodate, for example, Bruges, Paris and Mexico City? Maybe!

And what about other criteria like safety, water quality (I’ve had giardia and a range of other nasties) and weather. I’m not so sure I’d be as excited about St. Petersburg, long term, if I had to stick out a whole winter there. And I’m positive I wouldn’t if I was on a backpacking budget.

A rooftop view towards the Sacre Coeur Basilica on Montmarte in Paris.

Photographing The World | So Much To See

Despite all the travel I’ve undertaken over the years, I’m yet to visit Prague, Venice, Budapest, Barcelona and Istanbul, let alone Kyoto or Jerusalem. So, really, what do I know?

Well, I have been to Paris, on two separate occasions. And, while each trip was only for a few days, I did get out and about exploring and photographing as much as I could. And it is a very, very beautiful city. It’s interesting how, when viewed from a reasonably elevated position looking out towards Sacre Coeur Basilica, just how beautiful the almost chalk white surrounding buildings can be in the sunlight. And the centre of Paris, on a balmy summer’s evening, is a very special place to be.

I heard an interesting report on the radio recently discussing the fact that many young parisians feel that their city, rather than being a modern, vibrant city is actually suspended in a kind of time warp. Dare I say, that’s what makes it so attractive to tourists. And that’s the very reason I made the photo, at the top of this post, of the streetscape leading down to the Academie Nationale De Musique in black and white.

Truth: It’s In The Making

It’s an extremely impressive facade, full of subtle tonality and fine detail. Removing color from the scene was a simply solution as it emphasized those very traits. As a result there’s very little in the scene that dates it to the present day. If you’re looking to portray nostalgia, black and white is the way to go. Why not give it a go, madame and monsieur?

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru