Navigation – Plan du site

‘C’était Paris en 1970’

Amateur Photography, Urbanism and Photographic History
Catherine E. Clark
Cet article est une traduction de :
« C’était Paris en 1970 »

Résumé

Haussmannization may have sparked the first systematic attempt to photograph Paris, but the city’s transformations in the 1960s and ‘70s inspired the most massive effort yet to capture it in photographs: the amateur photo contest ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ (‘This Was Paris in 1970’), whose roughly fourteen thousand participants produced seventy thousand black-and-white prints and thirty thousand color slides of the capital in a similarly radical era of urban change. This article recounts the history of that competition, arguing that ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ adapted the rich visual tradition of Parisian transformation for the era of mass photography. In form as well as content, the participants’ photographs reproduced traditions of documenting historical artifacts and architecture from within the city’s rich photographic history. Some submissions also protested the threat posed by contemporary urbanism to the city’s historic character, converging on new conventions of documenting the city that showed how the pace of change in Paris had become as swift as a camera’s shutter.

Texte intégral

A Bourse Chateaubriand from the Embassy of France in the United States and funds from the Peter E. Palmquist Memorial Fund for Historical Photographic Research supported research for this piece. The author also thanks Emmanuelle Toulet, Carole Gascard, and the staff of the Bibliothèque historique for facilitating access to the contest photos; Raphaelle Noor Steinzig and Elisa Foster for research assistance; Vanessa Schwartz, Elinor Accampo, Brian Jacobson, members of the Department of Art at Oklahoma State University, as well as François Brunet and other members of this publication’s editorial board for their questions and comments about the ideas presented here.

  • 1 The Fnac, or Fédération nationale d’achats des cadres, began as a discount club in 1954. By the lat (...)

1On April 25, 1970, more than fourteen thousand amateur photographers gathered under the iron-and-glass umbrellas of Victor Baltard’s masterpieces of nineteenth-century architecture, the market pavilions at les Halles. They were there to embark upon a massive ‘operation’ to document Paris: ‘C’était Paris en 1970,’ an amateur photo contest sponsored by the city of Paris, France-Inter, and the Fnac, a cooperative electronics store that was emerging as a major player on the French cultural scene.1 The gathering at les Halles – the former site of the city’s recently emptied central markets, whose pavilions would be demolished just a year and a half later – fittingly captures the contest’s context of major urban change. As the soon-to-be ruins of Paris’s nineteenth-century glory sheltered them from rain, contestants received envelopes containing assignments of 250m by 250m squares of the city to document over the course of the month of May. These amateur photographers would ultimately submit seventy tousand black-and-white prints and thirty thousand color slides that the contest donated to the Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris, where today they are housed alongside a large collection of Charles Marville’s iconic photographic documentation of Haussmannization.

  • 2 Photographers’ participant numbers appear on the reverse side of most photos, although some bear no (...)
  • 3 The library did not make the contest’s color slides available to researchers until after the comple (...)

2 Given the contest’s size and scale, it is impossible to summarize or fully describe the ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ photographs. The archive offers up fodder for multiple possible interpretations and research questions. After the contest, staff members catalogued only a handful of black-and-white photos (no more than three hundred). They stored the rest of the prints in paper folders, one for each numbered square, and the slides in similarly organized plastic sleeves.2 The archive’s lack of cataloguing means researchers must request photographs by location rather than by subject, theme, style, or even photographer. The arguments made here are based on a survey of some seven thousand black-and-white photographs including all of the catalogued photographs and the photos from over ninety-five squares, chosen according to topographic categorizations of ‘C’était Paris en 1970.’3 This selection includes a range of neighborhoods identified by five main characteristics: the social class or ethnic origins of their inhabitants, their position within or exclusion from the city’s network of architectural icons and tourist sites, the historical periods with which Parisians identified them, the industries (from automobile manufacturing to leisure) they housed, and how they had faired during modernization and renovation projects since the 1960s.

  • 4 By 1970 – between the predominance of photographically illustrated books as well as museum exhibiti (...)
  • 5 Edwards describes how ideas about national and local history, the possibilities of photography and (...)

3 The heterogeneity of these documents defies totalizing analysis. In viewing them, nonetheless, certain patterns emerged that illuminate how amateur photographers conceived of Paris and its past as photographable commodities and how they mobilized the idea of history and the documentation of the present as a form of protest against the city’s rapid transformation. The very fact that their photographs came to rest alongside Marville’s starts to seem fitting, for it becomes clear that participants, when asked to capture the immediate history of the disappearing present, did so in ways that demonstrate distinct familiarity with the long history of Parisian photography. It would be too much to say that these amateur photographers intentionally restaged old photographs of Paris in 1970 (although some very well might have). This article argues that this rich photographic record did, however, influence what both organizers and participants understood history and Parisian history to be and how they set about photographing it.4 By the late twentieth century, photographs and photographic histories of Paris held formative sway over popular conceptions of history, or what historian and anthropologist of photography Elizabeth Edwards describes as the ‘historical imagination.’5 As they reproduced many of the same types of images that composed Paris’s photographic historical record, some contestants expressed an interpretation of Paris as almost timeless. This interpretation and influence did not shape all submissions, and this article also argues that attention to the historic specificities of 1970 – in particular anxieties about contemporary urban change and condemnation of it – inspired participants to develop new conventions of photographing the capital.

  • 6 Urban renovations in other cities including New York and Berlin inspired similar efforts: Max Page, (...)
  • 7 While today Marville is known as Haussmann’s documentarian, at the time, Hoffbauer was far better k (...)
  • 8 Of all the photographers of this period, such as Emmanuel Pottier, Jules Hautecoeur, and Pierre Emo (...)

4 The idea of photographically cataloguing Paris in 1970 should come as no great surprise, for it had historical precedents. Since the nineteenth century, the destruction of Paris has gone hand in hand with its preservation in images. Georges-Eugène Haussmann, whose name has become synonymous with Paris’s rational urbanization, should also be remembered for his work to establish a visual archive of the city’s history and a public museum in which to display it: the musée Carnavalet. He saw this as a necessary complement to the major upheaval of urban renovation.6 The systematic visual documentation of the city before, during, and after its transformations that he commissioned from Charles Marville and the too-often-overlooked watercolorist Fedor Hoffbauer would help the public and historical experts alike remember and study the city’s past and present.7 Starting in the last decades of the nineteenth century, new groups and institutions including the Commission municipale du Vieux Paris (dedicated to studying and preserving the traces of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries), the musée Carnavalet, and the Bibliothèque historique ensured the continuation of this process of preserving the city in images. They commissioned photographic documentation of buildings and streets that were slated for destruction and purchased photos that presented important evidence of the city’s history.8 From 1903 to 1907 the Commission municipale du Vieux Paris even sponsored a series of amateur photo contests designed to produce urban documentation at low cost.

5 Much as Haussmannization had incited these first efforts to photograph Paris systematically, the city’s transformations in the 1960s and 1970s inspired Claude Gourbeyre, then mayor of the 20th arrondissement, to propose the largest single attempt to catalogue Paris photographically. By participating in the contest’s organization, Paris’s largely conservative municipal council, like Haussmann, admitted that contemporary urbanization meant the destruction of historic neighborhoods. Although the product of cooperation between numerous groups and individuals on both sides of the political spectrum, the contest must have been conceived, at least in part, as an effort to convince Parisians of city officials’ attention to the importance of historic preservation – if only in pictorial form.

  • 9 ‘[publicité] Pour sauver Paris, qui meurt un peu tous les jours: La Fnac lance l’opération “C’était (...)
  • 10 Since the first sales of George Eastman’s Kodak in 1888, discourses about photography had highlight (...)
  • 11 In the early decades of the twentieth century, photographers stopped selling their photographs dire (...)

6This article describes the contest that Gourbeyre’s suggestion inspired. It argues that ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ adapted the rich visual tradition of Parisian transformation for an era of mass photography. The contest’s organizers embraced the idea championed throughout the century that everyone could be a photographer; by extension, as its advertisements bragged, photography could ‘transform all Parisians into reporters, into archivists, into explorers of the Parisian sublime or commonplace.’9 Promotional materials promised that ‘even very simple cameras’ (and even in the hands of amateurs) could produce valuable, archival quality images.10 Presumably the contest also turned thousands into avid consumers of the cameras, film, and developing services available at the Fnac. Nonetheless, during a period in which professional photographs sold by private press agencies cost dear, how better to document a whole city than by taking advantage of camera-clad volunteers?11

  • 12 Scholars refer to the period beginning in the 1970s during which photography became valued as a cre (...)
  • 13 Subsequent large-scale official projects such as the 1984-1989 Mission photographique de la DATAR a (...)

7Amateurs as an obvious solution to the problem of creating photographic documentation would become unthinkable in the years to come as photography was absorbed into official institutions and discourses of high art and culture in France.12 Although multiple similar amateur photo contests intended to document a place or time, from the Fnac’s ‘C’était Toulouse en 1986’ to The New York Times’ 2010 ‘A Moment in Time,’ have taken place since, and amateur photographers and their social networking sites continue to create incidental records of global events, ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ marks the last time that a government body confided the creation of officially sanctioned documentation on this scale to amateurs.13 The resulting photographs show that the conference’s organizers had every reason to expect that amateur photographers could produce a vibrant record of modern life in a period of rapid urban change.

Urbanization and Photographic Documentation

  • 14 Indeed architectural historian Anthony Sutcliffe has described the Fifth Republic’s urban renovatio (...)
  • 15 André Fermigier, ‘Le Troisième siège de Paris: Allez voir au Grand Palais les dominos de l’an 2000 (...)

8 The city of Paris and the Fnac launched ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ in reaction to the radical urban renovations of the Fifth Republic.14 The strict homogenizing building code of Haussmannization gave way in the 1960s to the chaos of the free market and relaxed design regulations for new construction. Real estate developers tore down small-town neighborhoods in the city’s outlying arrondissements and replaced them with towering blocks of offices and apartments. The city’s traffic flows changed as highways and automobiles colonized the sleepy quays of the Seine while the desertion of markets and factories for the suburbs turned bustling neighborhoods into ghost towns. The result, according to journalist and art critic André Fermigier, was ‘Paris iii,’ a radical new cityscape of modern skyscrapers and highways that rose up alongside and over the remains of Vieux Paris (Paris i) and Haussmann’s Paris (Paris ii).15 Redevelopment was changing Paris so quickly that, as the use of the past tense in ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ suggested, yesterday’s photograph was already today’s historical document.

  • 16 ‘Pour sauver Paris’ (note 9).
  • 17 ‘Paris mobilise tous les Parisiens qui ont un appareil photo,’ Le Monde, March 28, 1970.
  • 18 ‘Pour sauver Paris’ (note 9).
  • 19 The special issue of La Galerie devoted to the contest includes the cartoon: Gébé, ‘Paris qu’on pio (...)
  • 20 See, for example, Fermigier’s 1967-1985 articles in Le Nouvel Observateur and Le Monde as well as h (...)

9 The 1970 contest was not, however, driven by a desire to stop or even to slow these renovations. Indeed Étienne de Véricourt (President of the Municipal Council), Maurice Grimaud (Préfet de Police), and Marcel Diebolt (Préfet de Paris), whose names headlined announcements of the contest in daily papers, helped run a municipal machine that had no intention of halting modernization.16 Some of the very people responsible for modernization’s rapid pace thus used the contest to protest helplessness, claiming ‘one cannot stand in the way of the transformation of Paris.’17 Publicity materials even reaffirmed the value of radical reconstruction, asking ‘isn’t it the defining characteristic of healthy cities to be at once rooted in the past and built for the future?’18 In a full-page spread published in the magazine Pilote, the popular cartoonist Gébé (whose L’An 01, an outcry against the ecological and human costs of contemporary life, appeared the same year) mocked city officials and Fnac directors for their naïve embrace of contemporary urbanism.19 The cartoon’s first frame depicts a pair of lovers in front of a bench and tree and the whispered promise, ‘this will be the bench of our love. This will be our tree…’ As ‘Paris evolves,’ the tree becomes a stump, and a phone booth replaces the bench. The young man revises, ‘Ok! This will be our telephone booth.’ Finally, as ‘Paris transforms itself,’ he proclaims: ‘This will be our construction site.’ Gébé’s scene prefigured the later charge, made by journalists and scholars, that municipal and national administrators turned a blind eye to the serious consequences of urban modernization for Paris’s identity.20

  • 21 For more about Kahn and the Archives de la Planète see: Teresa Castro, ‘Les Archives de la Planète (...)

10The effort to produce a massive photographic archive of changing Paris did, nonetheless, have value. Certainly the organizing team from the Fnac, led by co-founders Max Théret and André Essel and their director of public relations André Gouillou, who likely did the bulk of the work, believed in the utility of such an archive. Drawing on Paris’s long history of visual documentation of radical upheaval – from revolutions to urbanization –, the contest would ensure that destroyed swathes of the city lived on in the historical record. Two leading members of the Parisian historical community, the director of the Bibliothèque historique Henry de Surirey de Saint-Remy and Jacques Wilhelm, curator at the Musée Carnavalet, who participated in the organizing committee, likely proposed that advertisements include photographs from past documentary projects. One full-page ad featured a photo from Albert Kahn’s Archives de la planète, an early twentieth-century attempt to archive the entire globe in photos and on film, paired with a caption promising that submissions would ensure that ‘tomorrow, photos like this one will preserve the memory of Paris today.’21

  • 22 ‘Pour sauver Paris’ (note 9).
  • 23 Ibid.

11 Contest regulations sought to harness amateurs’ enthusiasm to a plan for total, systematic coverage of Paris. Organizers divided Paris into 1,755 squares (250m by 250m) and used a lottery system to assign each participant to one. The photographers agreed to submit an unlimited number of photos, taken on either color slide or black-and-white film, ‘describing [the square] as completely as possible.’22 The bulk of submissions came from this category while two others – comprising a total of three additional photographs – allowed photographers to play with personal interpretations of the city. These included ‘two photos dedicated to making known a strange or little known aspect of Paris’ (category #2) as well as ‘a single photo […] taken anywhere in Paris [which] for the contestant best represents Paris during the month of May 1970’ (category #3).23 The contest regulations structured photographic urban documentation as primarily an objective, scientific process whose meaning derived from the accretion of masses of documents but still allowed for participants’ desire for artistic and subjective encounters while photographing the city.

  • 24 National newspapers such as Le Monde as well as professional and specialized publications such as L (...)
  • 25 One journalist snidely asked why Cartier-Bresson had not read the contest’s rules before agreeing t (...)

12 Strangely enough, the most fervent condemnation of the contest in 1970 centered not on the fact that Parisian municipal officials sublimated concerns of run-away modernization into a photographic documentation project, but that they relied on amateur photographers to do so. Professional photographers decried the stipulation that participants in ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ forfeit the rights to their submissions.24 In the weeks following the competition’s announcement, the Association des journalists-reporters-photographes et cinéastes, the Association nationale des photographes publicitaires, and the Groupement des photographes-illustrateurs all charged that not only did the requirement prevent professionals’ participation, it also violated France’s artistic and intellectual property laws: the very structures that safeguarded their members’ ability to earn a living. Henri Cartier-Bresson withdrew from the contest’s jury in protest.25 The uproar caused the city of Paris to withdraw its official sponsorship, leaving the Fnac and France-Inter at the contest’s helm. The Archives de Paris also rescinded its offer to make the photographs available to the public, leaving them without a home until the Bibliothèque historique, under the direction of Henry de Surirey de Saint-Remy, accepted them.

13 The contest organizers’ reliance on amateurs and insistence that participants cede the rights to their photographs represents more than a simple desire to alienate professional photographers, undercut the viability of their profession, or even to sell record amounts of film and cameras. Rather, it speaks to organizers’ belief that contemporary urban transformations were simply too great and complex for one or even a dozen photographers to document them fully. Only the mobilization of tens of thousands of photographers, and thus necessarily amateurs, could produce the number of photographs that contest organizers hoped to collect and, by ensuring that these photographs remained libres de droits (royalty free), to make available for public use. Professional photographers, whose livings depended on the production of quality images seemed to protest this interpretation of photography.

  • 26 ‘14 016 personnes,’ France soir, April 24, 1970.
  • 27 P. D., Viroflay, ‘Courrier: Un Super-gogo bénévole,’ La Galerie: Arts, lettres, spectacles, moderni (...)
  • 28 Christian Vigne, interview with photographer over email, May 8, 2010.

14 Professional photographers’ outcry against ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ and sponsors’ withdrawal did not prevent the contest from moving forward as planned. Advertisements ran in major newspapers and magazines, and by April 24 more than fourteen thousand photographers had signed up.26 Ongoing news coverage of contemporary urban changes reinforced the contest’s necessity for participants. Indeed, both during and after May 1970, they expressed great faith in the historical and archival value of the project. At the time more than one wrote to the Fnac to commend its sponsorship of ‘a project useful to a city that I love so much.’27 Even decades later, contestant Christian Vigne fondly remembered his ‘feeling of participating in a record that would outlive me.’28 Such sentiments pushed these amateurs to photograph the city differently than professionals, more sensitive to the demands and desires of the publishing world, might have.

Fig. 1. B. Pouzet, doorknocker, silver print, 18.2 x 23.9 cm, 1970, ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ contest, coll. Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.

  • 29 ‘Paris, villages: Numéro spécial de Paris aux Cent Villages publié à l’occasion de l’exposition des (...)

15 Participants in ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ ended up archiving much more than simply the French capital’s physical state in May 1970. They created an unparalleled archive of the city and its history seen through the lens of photographers liberated from the constraints of publication and without an audience in mind. In fact, the Fnac contest photographs are most compelling not simply as documents of Paris in 1970, but rather, as then director of the Bibliothèque historique Patrice Boussel enthused in 1976, as documents ‘of the way that Parisians saw their city and how they looked at one another.’29

The Photographs

  • 30 Many participants continued to submit photos after the deadline. ‘Le Roman-photo de l’opération “C’ (...)
  • 31 One photographer thanked organizers for the opportunity to ‘get to know an area that I was complete (...)

16 Despite organizers’ hopes, the contest supplied a very uneven portrait of Paris in May of 1970. Only two thousand eight hundred of the original participants even submitted complete documentation of their assigned squares.30 Some squares received no submissions (their folders are empty), while others received hundreds of photographs from each of multiple photographers. The system of assignments managed to guarantee the documentation of some out-of-the-way places.31 But it also meant that some areas of distinct interest in 1970, for example the squares containing the Baltard pavilions of les Halles whose destruction would become a flashpoint for debates about urbanization in the years to come, went nearly undocumented because the contestants assigned to them did not submit images. Clearly not every participant in ‘Cétait Paris en 1970’ approached it with a sense of political urgency or duty to future generations.

Fig. 2. F. Berton, Parisian alley, silver print, 17.7 x 24.5 cm, 1970, ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ contest, coll. Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.

  • 32 Juliette Gréco (lyrics by Pierre Delanoë/score by Claude Bolling), ‘C’était Paris en 1970,’ Cétait (...)

17 Although the contest photographs are rife with diversity and sets of contradictions, distinct patterns emerge. At times, participants composed remarkably similar views. Five photographers assigned to three squares around the Front de Seine development in the 15th, for example, took a series of nearly identical pictures. Although they captured people and everyday life, contestants placed major focus on documenting and often juxtaposing old and new architectural elements of the urban landscape. As the quintessentially Parisian singer Juliette Gréco sang in a tune produced in honor of the contest, ‘Paris in 1970 [offered] a little bit of the year 2000, traces of the year 1000’ and everything in between, ready for the camera.32 In capturing the city’s temporal complexity, participants juxtaposed vestiges of the past and the ruins of contemporary construction with the new cityscape that rose up over old Paris.

Fig. 3. J.-C. Longeron, wooden cart, silver print, 18 x 24 cm, 1970, ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ contest, coll. Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.

‘Traces of the Year 1000’

  • 33 For more about Atget’s engagement with ideas about Vieux Paris see: Molly Nesbit, ‘Atget and the Am (...)
  • 34 G. Lenôtre, popular historian and lover of Parisian history, described amateur history buffs as ‘en (...)
  • 35 Henry de Surirey de Saint-Remy, ‘Images de Paris confiées à Paris 1871-1971,’ La Galerie: Arts, let (...)

18 Contestants’ images testify to the important role that old photos played in their knowledge and understanding of Parisian history. Submissions overwhelmingly reproduced early twentieth-century nostalgia for traces of Vieux Paris. This interest in the distant, rather than the nineteenth-century past had long had a profound effect on the city’s photographic representation, shaping the work of both well-known photographers such as Eugène Atget as well as countless amateur historians-cum-photographers.33 The Musée Carnavalet and the Bibliothèque historique amassed large collections of their images, which documented carved doorframes, iron balcony railings, and elaborate statuary as well as picturesque views of narrow streets and collapsing buildings that mapped Vieux Paris’s enduring presence.34 The 1970 photographs, as Henry de Surirey de Saint-Remy commented, ‘hint at a way of seeing and feeling that is altogether consistent with the standing tradition of the [library’s] existing collections.’35 Participants seemed to channel turn-of-the century photographers as they turned their lenses on wrought-iron details, such as staircase railings and doorknockers (fig. 1). Other participants captured courtyards and alleyways that looked unchanged since Marville or the same type of wooden carts that populated Eugène Atget’s early-twentieth-century Parisian scenes (figs. 2 and 3).

Fig. 4. Page 30 of Le Vieux Paris: souvenirs et vieilles demeures, vol. 2 (1913), G. Lenôtre (dir.), coll. Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.

19 In privileging these dated elements over images of contemporary life, some photographers seemed to eschew the question of contemporary modernization and thus conform to the apolitical elements of the contest’s rhetoric. Two participants, allotted square 794 in in the Marais, for example, together produced over forty views of architectural details, building façades, and courtyards and only six portraits of the people who frequented the neighborhoods’ streets. For another participant, old architectural details represented an element of ‘discovery,’ the unexpected scene that surprised and delighted. For the second category of submissions, this contestant designated a photo of the pavillon Carré de Baudouin, an eighteenth-century folly still standing in the 20th arrondissement (in square 576). On its back, he romantically imagined the building brooding over lost time:

Its aristocratic façade [front]
Still stands in the neighborhood
Under its melancholy eye
History has come to hide
Young, it made great efforts
To be welcoming
Now, with its secrets
It dwells on its past.

Fig. 5. Anonymous, the staircase between the rue Vilin and the rue Piat, silver print, 18.2 x 24 cm, 1970, ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ contest, coll. Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.

20The presence of “Vieux Paris” still held powerful sway over amateur photographers’ forms of historical imagination in 1970, and consequently photographs of it played a starring role in contest submissions.

  • 36 Louis Chéronnet, Paris tel qu’il fut: 104 photographies anciennes (Paris: Editions Tel, 1951), 5.

21 In photographing traces of the past, participants created images that bear remarkable resemblance not only to the subjects of old documentary photographs but also to their forms. Their photographs of architectural details, for example, parrot styles of framing and cropping. Contestants recreated the look of photographic layouts which had appeared in illustrated histories since the 1910s: close-up shots of isolated architectural details touched-up or cut out and collaged in order to remove their contemporary surroundings (fig. 4). Participants also adapted the form and style of these documents to new subjects, turning this mode on characteristic details of Paris 1900, such as Hector Guimard’s art nouveau metro entrances and iron-and-glass pavilions of the city’s various markets, as well as the quotidian fixtures, such as letterboxes, of contemporary life. In at least one case, a photographer assigned to a square on the hill of Belleville and Ménilmontant also mimicked turn-of-the-century processing techniques. Printing his photos of picturesque soon-to-be ruins in sepia tones, he reproduced what photo collector, art critic, journalist, and historian Louis Chéronnet called the characteristically ‘beautiful, slightly faded rusts’ of nineteenth-century photographs (fig. 5).36 In the most photographed city in the world, history had come down through the generations as the history of photography.

Fig. 6. Saint Étienne, the Regard de la Lanterne framed against nineteenth-century construction, silver print, 17.7 x 23.7 cm, 1970, ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ contest, coll. Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.

22 In some cases, participants’ obligation and/or desire to document the city comprehensively – to photograph objects, buildings, and monuments from different angles and points of view and from varying distances – demonstrated the impossibility of isolating the distant past from the city’s new modern face. One photographer, for instance, framed the Regard de la lanterne, a small seventeenth-century stone building in the 19th arrondissement that served as an access point to a subterranean aqueduct, against a nineteenth-century building (fig. 6). This photographer felt compelled to take a second shot from the other side, framed against a much more recent, modern style building (fig. 7). Taken together, these two photographs – one, a Vieux Paris-style document of Paris’s photographic and architectural past, the other a study in contrast between Vieux Paris and its future replacement – mark the collision of old photographic styles, monuments of Paris’s past, and signs of its future that animated the contest’s mission and its entrants’ images.

Fig. 7. Saint Étienne, the Regard de la Lanterne framed against twentieth-century construction, silver print,
17.7 x 23.7 cm, 1970, ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ contest,
coll. Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.

‘Paris studies its present’

  • 37 ‘Pour sauver Paris’ (note 9).

23 While the contests’ organizers did not condemn the changes affecting Paris in the month of May 1970, they did insist that ‘Paris study its present.’37 They emphasized the imperative to capture today’s ceaseless production of potentially relevant historical moments and artifacts. Yet the contest’s almost offensively neutral outlook on the need to do so did not anticipate the critical lens that photographers turned on the city, its social problems, and the immediate effects of urban redevelopment.

  • 38 Kristin Ross, May ’68 and Its Afterlives (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), 8. For more (...)
  • 39 ‘Fnac Communiqué à la presse’, April 17, 1970, BHVP Fonds ‘C'était Paris en 1970.’

24 Flouting the project’s initial endorsement by the Préfect de Police, many amateur photographers used their participation to continue the spirit of the 1968 protests against ‘capitalism, American imperialism, and Gaullism.’38 A full two thirds of ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ contestants were younger than thirty.39 Although May ‘68 was far from exclusively a youth movement, many of these young photographers had likely taken to the streets two years earlier. Moreover, they were drawn to the posters and graffiti of ongoing social movements whose demands evoked the ‘68 protests for labor and social reform. In one instance, two participants in the 15th arrondissement both captured the same graffiti declaring ‘free le dantec le bris,’ referring to the intellectuals Jean-Pierre Le Dantec and Michel Le Bris, arrested in 1970 for their affiliation with the Maoist newspaper La Cause du peuple. Photographers also documented evidence of continued social protests, from piles of rubbish left by a garbage collectors’ strike to marchers in the street. In doing so, participants projected a desire for social change into their documents of Paris during a moment of physical change.

  • 40 ‘Paris, villages’ (note 29), n. p.
  • 41 Gébé, ‘Paris qu’on pioche’ (note 19).

25 As Patrice Boussel noted, contestants’ photographs became social commentaries by ‘insisting on the squalid aspects of certain neighborhoods or the inhumanity of contemporary urbanism.’40 One pointedly captioned a photo of decrepit courtyard toilets: ‘This was still Paris in 1970.’ While documenting the same square in the 11th arrondissement, another photographer captured a young boy sitting on what looks like a bale of straw and declared: ‘Paris: 1 m2 of open space per inhabitant’ (fig. 8). Images such as these protested against the lack of indoor plumbing, parks, and gardens in working-class neighborhoods. Although real estate developers and government officials at the time argued that their projects helped address housing shortages, many Parisians remained skeptical of these claims. Gébé encapsulated their concerns in his depiction of picturesque Paris’s destruction in the name of ‘we must provide people with decent housing!’ that, instead, resulted in the construction of office buildings.41

Fig. 8. J.-C. Longeron, ‘Paris, 1 m2 of green space per inhabitant,’ silver print, 18 x 24 cm, 1970, ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ contest, coll. Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.

26 A spirit of protest against the inhumane forces of development drove some contestants to pay particular attention to its human costs. As they photographed anonymous buildings in the process of destruction, contest participants often seem more motivated by a concern for the future of their inhabitants than for the structures’ historical significance. Entries showing buildings in the process of demolition or nothing but the traces of fireplaces and staircases in shared walls captured the price and disruption of renovations that ripped people, not just architectural specimens, from the cityscape. One participant voiced this concern with the scribbled caption ‘But who lived here’ on the back of a photo of a billboard announcing demolitions to make way for Galaxie, a shopping mall in the 13th arrondissement.

27 Still other entrants’ photographs suggest the equally grim future of historical preservation in the face of free-market driven urban renovation. Amateur photographers framed redevelopment’s roughshod gallop not just over people’s lives but also over remnants of the past. On the site of the future Bercy interchange of the boulevard périphérique, several contestants documented a cornerstone of the fortifications that had once ringed Paris. Instead of framing this subject as a close up as others had, one photographer composed a wide shot that transforms it into just one element of an urban wasteland that the highway would soon replace (fig. 9). He snapped the cornerstone as a developer might have seen historical artifacts: no more significant than the other debris – broken pipes, pieces of tarmac, and a rusted barrel – waiting to be cleared from the site. If Paris’s fortified walls could not stand up to modern urbanization, how could average Parisians hope to survive it?

Fig. 9. J. Peyrin, fragment of Paris’s fortifications, silver print, 17.9 x 23.7 cm, 1970, ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ contest, coll. Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.

‘A little bit of the year 2000’

  • 42 H. de Surirey de Saint-Remy, ‘Images de Paris confiées à Paris 1871-1971’ (note 35), 17.
  • 43 The Montparnasse Tower, completed in 1972, was the largest intramuros skyscraper project, but tall (...)
  • 44 Saint Remy cites Yvan Christ in: H. de Surirey de Saint-Remy, ‘Images de Paris confiées à Paris 187 (...)

28 Indeed the glimpses of the future – Gréco’s ‘a little bit of the year 2000’ – revealed by many participants’ photographs betray deep concerns about what urban redevelopment had in store. In documenting the cityscape of ‘Paris iii,’ they accused new construction of brutally dominating the old city. Whereas Henry de Surirey de Saint-Remy could note that in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century photographs the ‘past and the present rub shoulders in the same image,’ the 1970 photos show no such intimacy.42 The new now towers over the old.43 Photographers assigned to squares all over the city consistently produced similar images of towers rising up over old buildings, blocks, and streets. Standing back from their subjects, they framed views that capture the sheer size of skyscrapers in comparison to the two- or three-story buildings that remained from when Paris’s outer arrondissements were small villages (fig. 10). Other participants tilted their cameras up, giving what art critic, journalist, popular historian, and opponent of contemporary urbanism Yvan Christ dubbed ‘poisonous […] giant mushrooms’ a dizzying dominance over fragments of the old city (fig. 11).44 New construction seems even more menacing when photographers framed it so that old Paris dead-ends in a modern tower, casting its shadow down on an already dark and narrow street (fig. 12). Their photos show historic Paris trapped by modernization.

Fig. 10. F. Vahl, the Front de Seine development, silver print, 16.8 x 23.9 cm, 1970, ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ contest, coll. Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.

  • 45 Yvan Christ, Les Métamorphoses de la banlieue parisienne: cent paysages photographiés autrefois par (...)
  • 46 Gébé, ‘Paris qu’on pioche’ (note 19). Jacques Tati’s 1967 film Play Time offered a similarly comica (...)

29 Such photographs suggest that contemporary urban renovation was worse than Haussmannization. Christ dubbed this period of change ‘Sarcellization,’ after housing blocks built in the 1950s in the northern suburb of Sarcelles.45 Sarcellization marooned Parisians in high-rise buildings that overshadowed the rest of the city; at least Haussmannization had opened Paris to the circulation of light, air, and people. In 1974, President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing would ban the construction of skyscrapers within the city limits. In 1970, however, nothing indicated that towers would not become the new norm. Indeed, given then President Georges Pompidou’s taste for automobiles and futuristic cityscapes, Gébé’s vision of Paris in 2001 as a solid wall of glass-fronted modern buildings and highways along the Seine, punctuated only by modern towers, seemed all too likely (fig. 13).46

Fig. 11. J. Teichac, towers at the Front de Seine, silver print, 18 x 24 cm, 1970, ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ contest, coll. Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.

  • 47 Architectural historian François Loyer has argued, for instance that ‘the affair of les Halles was (...)

30 Photographs from ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ show that average Parisians – who were neither urban historians nor architecture critics – brought a historical consciousness and a critique of new construction to the projects that peppered the city’s outer arrondissements. Historians of urbanism and architecture have noted that new urbanism did not cause large-scale public protest as long as it remained at the edges of the capital: along the Front de Seine, at Montparnasse, near the Place d’Italie, and on the hill of Belleville. They claim that Parisians only mobilized when destruction and reconstruction threatened the city’s historic center. 47 The ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ photos demonstrate, to the contrary, that average Parisians did care about renovation projects in outer districts. During the contest they both documented localized campaigns to save neighborhoods and took photographs that trouble over the effects of Paris’s new ‘poisonous mushrooms.’

  • 48 La Galerie: Arts, lettres, spectacles, modernité, September 1971, 56–59.
  • 49 At the BHVP, the group of catalogued photos from square 1554, in an area of the 13th arrondissement (...)

31 Amateur photographers emphasized how modern architecture stood to change the city’s social fabric. Participants, as well as the editors of the magazine of art and culture, La Galerie, which published a special issue devoted to the contest in September 1971, compared photographs of new and old buildings side by side. One photographer insisted that ‘the old-fashioned perspective’ ‘[must] not be separat[ed] from the modern perspective.’ In La Galerie, the editors explained what this comparison afforded. Widely overestimating Parisians’ adoption of air conditioning systems, they stated that the advent of ‘climate control’ had revolutionized not only the look of building facades, but also changed people’s lives. ‘In [the old] days, windows could open and inhabitants [could] lean out to watch the spectacle of the street;’ new constructions isolated residents.48 New apartment buildings would alienate Parisians from their neighbors and their city because they prevented the very sort of interactions that occurred when photographers tilted back their cameras and photographed smiling people instead of permanently shut windows49 (fig. 14).

Fig. 12. Anonymous, new construction at the end of a passageway near the Place des Fêtes, silver print, 18 x 24 cm, 1970, ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ contest, coll. Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.

32 When taking pictures of the details and facades of Paris’s newest buildings, participants applied modes of scientifically documenting their city developed in the nineteenth century. They produced topographic documents: photographs of streets, buildings, and architectural details, both new and old. In doing so, they reproduced documentation practices premised on the idea that the photograph presented a literal or exact copy of the objects it pictured. Photographs presented a transparent historical record at the same time that they represented change and progress through the contrast of old and new. And yet even as they employed the camera as a scientific instrument that objectively recorded reality, some participants also used photographs to interpret and criticize the objects and changes they documented. By using their photographs in this way, these amateur photographers turned the project to produce a neutral, transparent record of Paris in 1970 on its head.

Fig. 13. Gébé, ‘C’était Paris en 2001,’ first published in Pilote, n° 549 (May 1970), p. 8-9.

The Afterlives of ‘C’était Paris en 1970’

  • 50 The jury consisted of Daniel Maurandy, Jean Prissette, Max Théret, Jean-Lou Sieff, Izis, Jacques Bo (...)
  • 51 No newspaper would review or publicize the exhibition. The Fnac had to buy advertising space to pub (...)

33 The contest ended where it had started with an exhibition of its prizewinning photographs at the Baltard pavilions of les Halles. Professional photographers’ antipathy towards the contest did not prevent leading members of Paris’s photographic professions –including photojournalist Izis, photographer Jacques-Henri Lartigue, and artistic director at Paris Match Jacques Bourgeas – from judging entries.50 This committee had only two weeks to sort through one hundred thousand images, awarding six levels of prizes to separate categories of black-and-white and color entries. Despite a general boycott of the exhibition in the press, from October 28 to November 15 over seventy thousand visitors came to Pavilion 8 of les Halles (where just two years earlier, they could have bought eggs and poultry) to see photographs that crystalized all that was changing in Paris in 1970.51

Fig. 14. Anonymous, ‘The elderly in Paris: before the expulsion (rue Payer whose buildings are destined to be demolished soon),’ silver print, 18 x 24 cm, 1970, ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ contest, coll. Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.

34 While the Fnac celebrated the successful completion of the operation to preserve Paris in photographs, participants and the public questioned whether the contest had actually met its goals. Exhibition advertisements bragged that the selection of photos demonstrated how:

  • 52 Ibid., 13.

the twenty arrondissements, the seventy-eight neighborhoods of the capital have been illustrated, observed, immortalized, in their richness or in their destitution, their brilliance or their banality, such as they were at least for a moment in the history of Paris. No other capital in the world has such a heritage to offer the future.52

  • 53 Mlle C.G. (Paris), ‘Courrier: Quels critères?,’ La Galerie: Arts, lettres, spectacles, modernité, S (...)
  • 54 R.G., Issy-les-Moulineaux, ‘Courrier: Une Tour Eiffel biscornue,’ La Galerie: Arts, lettres, specta (...)
  • 55 Ibid.

35But many contestants responded that the contest – and in particular the prize committee – had lost sight of its commendable documentary ambitions. One participant criticized the jury for selecting generic shots of the city. She lamented: ‘Paris in May 1970 seems to have been completely lost, for the images provided do not at all situate the spring of 1970.’53 Another photographer, who visited the exhibition twice, complained: ‘both times I came out profoundly disappointed!’54 He too felt that the photos on display captured little particular to the moment. In particular, what must have been a highly stylized photo of the Eiffel Tower left him sputtering: ‘What will Parisians of the year 2070 think when they see a deformed Eiffel Tower? They’ll think that Parisians of 1970 did not know how to build straight.’55 The contest photos on display, he suggested, privileged artistic and aesthetic criteria and thus would not hold up as reliable historical documents.

  • 56 Ibid.

36 The color photograph that won first prize presents the most galling betrayal of the contest’s prerogatives or, perhaps, the most rigidly structured adhesion to them (fig. 15). A detail of the Fontaine Carpeaux, just south of the Luxembourg gardens, it encapsulates none of the elements of change and continuity that made so many of the ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ photos compelling. Instead it presents a technically perfect (each water droplet discretely frozen in midair), well-composed, and completely generic photograph that could have been taken in any European city. As one participant keenly remarked, how could ‘a bronze horse head among sprays of water […] possibly […] epitomiz[e] Paris?’56 On the one hand, without its caption, one would never know that this photograph was taken in the French capital, let alone in 1970. On the other hand, the photograph’s generic and timeless depiction of place seems to embody the careful political neutrality of organizers’ discourses and their insistence that despite modernization, the city’s essential historic identity remained unthreatened.

Fig. 15. Bellin, detail of the Carpeaux fountain in the Luxembourg Gardens, color slide, 1970, ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ contest, published in La Galerie (September 1971), p. 90, coll. Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.

37This prizewinning photo and the participation of Jacques Henri Lartigue – an amateur photographer whose shots of early twentieth-century Parisian life were celebrated as a major contribution to twentieth-century art – both suggest a fundamental disconnect between the contest’s rhetoric and its jury’s decisions. Organizers had asked participants to create a photo archive that privileged documentation over aesthetic sensibility, and yet the people who judged the photographs did so with aesthetic criteria in mind. While the contests’ reliance on amateur photographers marks the end point of a certain interpretation of documentary and amateur photography, this photo’s selection by a committee that included an essential figure in the aestheticization of amateur French photography speaks to ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ as an early event that deserves inclusion in histories of photography’s absorption into institutions and discourses of high art.

  • 57 A lingering uncertainty about the contest photographs’ copyright made library staff reluctant to le (...)
  • 58 Georges Eugène Haussmann, Mémoires du Baron Haussmann: grands travaux de Paris (Paris: G. Durier, 1 (...)

38 Over the course of the next several decades, this privileging of aesthetic criteria and an interest in photography as an aesthetic medium, even in the case of photographs in historical archives, helped the Fnac photographs slide into oblivion.57 The very contradictions of the archive must also have helped this process. In the coming fights over preservation and development, the political engagement against modernization of some of its documents likely prevented municipal or national officials from pointing to the archive as proof of their conscientious attention to preserving Parisian history (as Haussmann insisted his detractors remember his plans for the Musée Carnavalet).58 By the time large-scale protest against these changes was in full swing, there must have been little consolation for anyone in the creation of an enormous and difficult-to-navigate archive of amateur photographs.

  • 59 For an explanation of the library’s collecting policies in the 1970s and 1980s see: Marie de Thézy, (...)
  • 60 For more about museums and academics’ interest in amateur and ‘found’ photography see: Anne McCaule (...)

39 Since the exhibition at les Halles and the special issue of La Galerie, the photographs have languished nearly uncatalogued and unstudied in the Bibliothèque historique’s basement storerooms. Although the donation of the Fnac photographs gave new life to photo collecting at the library, inspiring the appointment of a full-time photo curator, this new section turned its attention to purchasing pictures from the archives of well-known professional photographers.59 Not enough time had yet passed for historians of Paris to find the contest photographs relevant, and historians of photography would not become largely interested in the history and practices of amateurs for at least another decade.60

40 Only in the past several years have a new generation of photo curators at the Bibliothèque historique, led by a new director, become interested in the ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ archive. They have reconditioned the photographs and digitized maps of the contest squares, preparing the photos for the high-level of use that organizers had hoped for. The questions relevant to this article – of how amateur photographers captured and interpreted the passage of time in the city while engaging with the city’s visual historical record and protesting against its contemporary changes – represent simply the tip of the iceberg of what this archive may offer to researchers interested in histories of photography, Paris, street culture, architecture, or any number of subjects.

41 Taken as representations of Paris, the photographs of ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ may not suffice to write a history of the French capital in May 1970. After all, photographs of architectural details and streets can only tell us so much about the past. If viewed as material traces of the month-long production of a massive urban historical archive, however, the contest photos become material sources for a microhistory of amateur photographers’ ideas about contemporary urban changes and their participation in the much larger process of photographically documenting and narrating Parisian history that shaped municipal and popular historical practices throughout the twentieth century. The photographs produced by the contest participants are compelling documents of just how steeped in the history of urban photographic documentation Paris remained even a hundred years after Marville photographed its streets. Whether they documented new tower buildings rising up over old streets and blocks or art nouveau store fronts, contestants’ photographs, sometimes even within the same image, encapsulated the tension between long-held traditions (and their representations) and the drive to modernize Paris with fast cars and skyscrapers. In capturing this tension, participants also preserved something of how they, themselves, understood Paris and the fact that when they looked through their viewfinders they saw not just the city, but also a long and rich tradition of photographs of it.

Notes

1 The Fnac, or Fédération nationale d’achats des cadres, began as a discount club in 1954. By the late 1980s it had become a chain of multi-media megastores with a serious cultural engagement. For more about its history see: Didier Toussaint, L’inconscient de la Fnac: l’addiction à la culture (Paris: Bourin, 2006); Vincent Chabault, La Fnac, entre commerce et culture: parcours d’entreprise, parcours d’employés (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 2010). All translations from French to English are by the author.

2 Photographers’ participant numbers appear on the reverse side of most photos, although some bear no attribution. These numbers correspond to names and addresses noted on the library’s copy of the master participant list.

3 The library did not make the contest’s color slides available to researchers until after the completion of research for this piece. I was able to look at several hundred of them since, in order to confirm certain patterns explained here.

4 By 1970 – between the predominance of photographically illustrated books as well as museum exhibitions and popular historical celebrations – photography and photographs had become integral to how Parisians understood their city and its past. For more about the importance of photographs to municipal and popular Parisian history in the twentieth century see: Catherine E. Clark, Photography as History: Collecting, Narrating, and Preserving Paris, 1870-1970 (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Southern California, 2012).

5 Edwards describes how ideas about national and local history, the possibilities of photography and photographic evidence, notions of social utility, and the physical networks of amateur photographers and historical experts shaped the photographic survey moment in England at the turn of the century. Elizabeth Edwards, The Camera as Historian: Amateur Photographers and Historical Imagination, 1885–1918 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012).

6 Urban renovations in other cities including New York and Berlin inspired similar efforts: Max Page, ‘Chapter 7: A Vanished City Is Restored: Inventing and Displaying the Past at the Museum of the City of New York,’ in The Creative Destruction of Manhattan, 1900-1940 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 145–176; Katherine Zelljadt, History as Past-Time: Amateurs and Old Berlin, 1870-1914 (Ph.D. Dissertation, History, Harvard University, 2005).

7 While today Marville is known as Haussmann’s documentarian, at the time, Hoffbauer was far better known. His watercolors formed the basis for the day’s most-celebrated illustrated history of Paris: Fedor Hoffbauer, Paris à travers les âges… (Paris: Firmin-Didot et Cie, 1875).

8 Of all the photographers of this period, such as Emmanuel Pottier, Jules Hautecoeur, and Pierre Emonts, Eugène Atget has received the most scholarly attention. For more about how municipal institutions acquired his and others’ work see: Molly Nesbit, Atget’s Seven Albums (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992); Archives de Paris, Paris la rue, un autre 1900: le fonds de l’Union photographique française aux Archives de Paris (Paris: Direction des affaires culturelles, 2000).

9 ‘[publicité] Pour sauver Paris, qui meurt un peu tous les jours: La Fnac lance l’opération “C’était Paris en 1970”,’ Le Monde, March 21, 1970.

10 Since the first sales of George Eastman’s Kodak in 1888, discourses about photography had highlighted its accessibility. The expense and technical skill involved, however, made photography a past time of the wealthy until well into the twentieth century: Marin Dacos, ‘Le regard oblique,’ Études photographiques, no. 11 (May 2002): 44–67.

11 In the early decades of the twentieth century, photographers stopped selling their photographs directly to municipal institutions and instead relied on photo agencies to manage reproductions and sales of their work. For more about the development of photo agencies in Paris from the 1920s to the 1960s see: Francoise Denoyelle, La lumière de Paris. Tome 1: Le marché de la photographie, 1919-1939 (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1997); Marie de Thézy and Claude Nori, La photographie humaniste: 1930-1960, histoire d’un mouvement en France (Paris: Contrejour, 1992).

12 Scholars refer to the period beginning in the 1970s during which photography became valued as a creative medium, an art form, and a commodity as the ‘institutionalization’ of photography. For more about it and the particularities of this history in France, start with: Stuart Alexander, ‘Photographic Institutions and Practices,’ in A New History of Photography, ed. Michel Frizot (Paris: Larousse, 2001), 695–707; Gaëlle Morel, Le Photoreportage d’auteur: l’institution culturelle de la photographie en France depuis les années 1970 (Paris: CNRS éd., 2006).

13 Subsequent large-scale official projects such as the 1984-1989 Mission photographique de la DATAR and the 2003-2008 Mission France organized by the French Ministry of Culture hired professional photographers and granted them artistic liberty in their documentation. DATAR engaged twelve French photographers and the Mission France just one, Raymond Depardon. For more about these projects and their often highly stylized images start with: Vincent Guigueno, ‘La France vue du sol,’ Études photographiques, no. 18 (May 2006): 96–119; Edward Welch, ‘Portrait of a Nation: Depardon, France, Photography,’ Journal of Romance Studies 8, no. 1 (Spring 2008): 19–30.

14 Indeed architectural historian Anthony Sutcliffe has described the Fifth Republic’s urban renovations as a replay of Haussmannization: Anthony Sutcliffe, Paris: An Architectural History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), 160.

15 André Fermigier, ‘Le Troisième siège de Paris: Allez voir au Grand Palais les dominos de l’an 2000, c’est de votre vie qu’il s’agit (Le Nouvel Observateur, 12 avril 1967),’ in La Bataille de Paris: des Halles à la Pyramide, chroniques d’urbanisme (Paris: Gallimard, 1991), 32–33.

16 ‘Pour sauver Paris’ (note 9).

17 ‘Paris mobilise tous les Parisiens qui ont un appareil photo,’ Le Monde, March 28, 1970.

18 ‘Pour sauver Paris’ (note 9).

19 The special issue of La Galerie devoted to the contest includes the cartoon: Gébé, ‘Paris qu’on pioche,’ La Galerie: Arts, lettres, spectacles, modernité, September 1971.

20 See, for example, Fermigier’s 1967-1985 articles in Le Nouvel Observateur and Le Monde as well as historian Louis Chevalier’s 1977 polemic against Parisian renovations: A. Fermigier, La Bataille de Paris: des Halles à la Pyramide, chroniques d’urbanisme (Paris: Gallimard, 1991); L. Chevalier, L’Assassinat de Paris (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1977).

21 For more about Kahn and the Archives de la Planète see: Teresa Castro, ‘Les Archives de la Planète ou les rythmes de l’Histoire,’ 1895: bulletin de l’Association française de recherche sur l’histoire du cinéma 54 (2008): 57–81; Paula Amad, Counter-Archive: Film, the Everyday, and Albert Kahn’s Archives de la Planète (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010). This advertisement is reproduced in ‘Le Roman-photo de l’opération “C’était Paris en 1970”,’ La Galerie: Arts, lettres, spectacles, modernité, September 1971, 7.

22 ‘Pour sauver Paris’ (note 9).

23 Ibid.

24 National newspapers such as Le Monde as well as professional and specialized publications such as La Correspondance de presse, L’Echo de la press, and La photographie nouvelle covered the uproar.

25 One journalist snidely asked why Cartier-Bresson had not read the contest’s rules before agreeing to sit on its jury: ‘Le Concours de la Fnac,’ L’Echo de la presse, April 13, 1970.

26 ‘14 016 personnes,’ France soir, April 24, 1970.

27 P. D., Viroflay, ‘Courrier: Un Super-gogo bénévole,’ La Galerie: Arts, lettres, spectacles, modernité, September 1971, 186.

28 Christian Vigne, interview with photographer over email, May 8, 2010.

29 ‘Paris, villages: Numéro spécial de Paris aux Cent Villages publié à l’occasion de l’exposition des photos recueillies lors du concours photographique Paris aux Cent Villages; 17 novembre-18 décembre 1976 BHVP,’ Paris aux cents villages, 1976, n. p.

30 Many participants continued to submit photos after the deadline. ‘Le Roman-photo de l’opération “C’était Paris en 1970”’ (note 21), 10.

31 One photographer thanked organizers for the opportunity to ‘get to know an area that I was completely unfamiliar with and that took me by surprise.’ O.A. (Paris), ‘Courrier: Bravo,’ La Galerie: Arts, lettres, spectacles, modernité, September 1971, 186.

32 Juliette Gréco (lyrics by Pierre Delanoë/score by Claude Bolling), ‘C’était Paris en 1970,’ Cétait Paris en 1970/Zizi kopek, zizi dollar, Philips 6009.084, 1970, vinyl.

33 For more about Atget’s engagement with ideas about Vieux Paris see: Molly Nesbit, ‘Atget and the Amateurs of Vieux Paris,’ in Atget’s Seven Albums (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), 62–75.

34 G. Lenôtre, popular historian and lover of Parisian history, described amateur history buffs as ‘enthusiastic investigators [who] travel[ed] all over Paris, [to] penetrate into the courtyards of its oldest buildings, brave concierges, climb staircases, tour the building, noting all that makes it unique; a door knocker, wood-paneling, a sculpted door or window frame, a painted ceiling, a Bacchus head at a cellar entrance, a wrought-iron balcony, a wooden banister, a trumeau mirror.’ G. Lenôtre, ed., Le Vieux Paris: souvenirs et vieilles demeures, vol. 1 (Paris: Ch. Eggimann, 1912), n. p.

35 Henry de Surirey de Saint-Remy, ‘Images de Paris confiées à Paris 1871-1971,’ La Galerie: Arts, lettres, spectacles, modernité, September 1971, 20.

36 Louis Chéronnet, Paris tel qu’il fut: 104 photographies anciennes (Paris: Editions Tel, 1951), 5.

37 ‘Pour sauver Paris’ (note 9).

38 Kristin Ross, May ’68 and Its Afterlives (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), 8. For more about the photographs of ‘68 see: Audrey Leblanc, ‘La couleur de Mai 1968,’ Études photographiques, no. 26 (November 2010): 162–178.

39 ‘Fnac Communiqué à la presse’, April 17, 1970, BHVP Fonds ‘C'était Paris en 1970.’

40 ‘Paris, villages’ (note 29), n. p.

41 Gébé, ‘Paris qu’on pioche’ (note 19).

42 H. de Surirey de Saint-Remy, ‘Images de Paris confiées à Paris 1871-1971’ (note 35), 17.

43 The Montparnasse Tower, completed in 1972, was the largest intramuros skyscraper project, but tall buildings invaded working-class neighborhoods throughout Paris. For more about them see: Norma Evenson, Paris: A Century of Change, 1878-1978 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979).

44 Saint Remy cites Yvan Christ in: H. de Surirey de Saint-Remy, ‘Images de Paris confiées à Paris 1871-1971’ (note 35), 20. In 1967, before the completion of any of these projects, André Fermigier described a less sinister ‘game of dominoes stood on end.’ A. Fermigier, ‘Le Troisième siège de Paris’ (note 15), 34.

45 Yvan Christ, Les Métamorphoses de la banlieue parisienne: cent paysages photographiés autrefois par Atget, Bayard, …[etc] et aujourd’hui par Charles Ciccione (Paris: A. Balland, 1969), xvi. Sarcelles remains the most notorious of the grands ensembles. For more about Sarcelles see: Evenson, Paris, 245–249; Camille Canteux, ‘Sarcelles, ville rêvée, ville introuvable,’ Sociétés & Représentations 17 (2004): 343-359; Annie Fourcaut, ‘Les premiers grands ensembles en region parisienne: Ne pas refaire la banlieue?,’ French Historical Studies, 27, no. 1 (2004): 195–218.

46 Gébé, ‘Paris qu’on pioche’ (note 19). Jacques Tati’s 1967 film Play Time offered a similarly comical yet bitterly critical depiction of future Paris, in which Vieux Paris and even the Eiffel Tower are nothing more than distant reflections in the city’s International-Style glass façades.

47 Architectural historian François Loyer has argued, for instance that ‘the affair of les Halles was the catalyst for Parisians’ historical consciousness.’ And indeed vocal press campaigns against new construction, focusing on the site of les Halles, would only begin in 1969 and 1970. François Loyer, ‘Préface,’ in La Bataille de Paris: des Halles à la Pyramide, chroniques d’urbanisme (Paris: Gallimard, 1991), 14.

48 La Galerie: Arts, lettres, spectacles, modernité, September 1971, 56–59.

49 At the BHVP, the group of catalogued photos from square 1554, in an area of the 13th arrondissement slated for destruction, ends with a similar shot of an old woman leaning out of a window: another Parisian engaged in street life from up above.

50 The jury consisted of Daniel Maurandy, Jean Prissette, Max Théret, Jean-Lou Sieff, Izis, Jacques Bourgeas, A. Trappenard, Willy Hall, André Gouillou, Jacques Henri Lartigue, Walter Carone, and Roger Tallon. ‘Le Roman-photo de l’opération “C’était Paris en 1970”’ (note 21), 11.

51 No newspaper would review or publicize the exhibition. The Fnac had to buy advertising space to publicize it. Ibid., 12.

52 Ibid., 13.

53 Mlle C.G. (Paris), ‘Courrier: Quels critères?,’ La Galerie: Arts, lettres, spectacles, modernité, September 1971, 190.

54 R.G., Issy-les-Moulineaux, ‘Courrier: Une Tour Eiffel biscornue,’ La Galerie: Arts, lettres, spectacles, modernité, September 1971, 190.

55 Ibid.

56 Ibid.

57 A lingering uncertainty about the contest photographs’ copyright made library staff reluctant to lend them. At first, the BHVP often complied with requests for photos for exhibitions and publications, but as the decades progressed the library denied them, claiming copyright issues.

58 Georges Eugène Haussmann, Mémoires du Baron Haussmann: grands travaux de Paris (Paris: G. Durier, 1979), 810.

59 For an explanation of the library’s collecting policies in the 1970s and 1980s see: Marie de Thézy, ‘Les Photographies anciennes et modernes,’ in Bulletin de la bibliothèque et des travaux historiques: XI Les collections photographiques de la Bibliothèque historique (Paris: Mairie de Paris, 1986), 8–31.

60 For more about museums and academics’ interest in amateur and ‘found’ photography see: Anne McCauley, ‘En-dehors de l’art,’ Études photographiques, no. 16 (May 25, 2005): 50–73.

Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 1. B. Pouzet, doorknocker, silver print, 18.2 x 23.9 cm, 1970, ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ contest, coll. Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.
URL http://etudesphotographiques.revues.org/docannexe/image/3407/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 2,2M
Légende Fig. 2. F. Berton, Parisian alley, silver print, 17.7 x 24.5 cm, 1970, ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ contest, coll. Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.
URL http://etudesphotographiques.revues.org/docannexe/image/3407/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 3,2M
Légende Fig. 3. J.-C. Longeron, wooden cart, silver print, 18 x 24 cm, 1970, ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ contest, coll. Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.
URL http://etudesphotographiques.revues.org/docannexe/image/3407/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 2,5M
Légende Fig. 4. Page 30 of Le Vieux Paris: souvenirs et vieilles demeures, vol. 2 (1913), G. Lenôtre (dir.), coll. Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.
URL http://etudesphotographiques.revues.org/docannexe/image/3407/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 2,6M
Légende Fig. 5. Anonymous, the staircase between the rue Vilin and the rue Piat, silver print, 18.2 x 24 cm, 1970, ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ contest, coll. Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.
URL http://etudesphotographiques.revues.org/docannexe/image/3407/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 2,0M
Légende Fig. 6. Saint Étienne, the Regard de la Lanterne framed against nineteenth-century construction, silver print, 17.7 x 23.7 cm, 1970, ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ contest, coll. Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.
URL http://etudesphotographiques.revues.org/docannexe/image/3407/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 3,7M
Légende Fig. 7. Saint Étienne, the Regard de la Lanterne framed against twentieth-century construction, silver print,
17.7 x 23.7 cm, 1970, ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ contest,
coll. Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.
URL http://etudesphotographiques.revues.org/docannexe/image/3407/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 3,3M
Légende Fig. 8. J.-C. Longeron, ‘Paris, 1 m2 of green space per inhabitant,’ silver print, 18 x 24 cm, 1970, ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ contest, coll. Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.
URL http://etudesphotographiques.revues.org/docannexe/image/3407/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 2,8M
Légende Fig. 9. J. Peyrin, fragment of Paris’s fortifications, silver print, 17.9 x 23.7 cm, 1970, ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ contest, coll. Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.
URL http://etudesphotographiques.revues.org/docannexe/image/3407/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 2,6M
Légende Fig. 10. F. Vahl, the Front de Seine development, silver print, 16.8 x 23.9 cm, 1970, ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ contest, coll. Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.
URL http://etudesphotographiques.revues.org/docannexe/image/3407/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 3,1M
Légende Fig. 11. J. Teichac, towers at the Front de Seine, silver print, 18 x 24 cm, 1970, ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ contest, coll. Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.
URL http://etudesphotographiques.revues.org/docannexe/image/3407/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 3,1M
Légende Fig. 12. Anonymous, new construction at the end of a passageway near the Place des Fêtes, silver print, 18 x 24 cm, 1970, ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ contest, coll. Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.
URL http://etudesphotographiques.revues.org/docannexe/image/3407/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 2,4M
Légende Fig. 13. Gébé, ‘C’était Paris en 2001,’ first published in Pilote, n° 549 (May 1970), p. 8-9.
URL http://etudesphotographiques.revues.org/docannexe/image/3407/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 592k
Légende Fig. 14. Anonymous, ‘The elderly in Paris: before the expulsion (rue Payer whose buildings are destined to be demolished soon),’ silver print, 18 x 24 cm, 1970, ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ contest, coll. Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.
URL http://etudesphotographiques.revues.org/docannexe/image/3407/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 2,7M
Légende Fig. 15. Bellin, detail of the Carpeaux fountain in the Luxembourg Gardens, color slide, 1970, ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ contest, published in La Galerie (September 1971), p. 90, coll. Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.
URL http://etudesphotographiques.revues.org/docannexe/image/3407/img-15.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 3,8M

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Catherine E. Clark, « ‘C’était Paris en 1970’  », Études photographiques, 31 | Printemps 2014, [En ligne], mis en ligne le 23 avril 2014. URL : http://etudesphotographiques.revues.org/3407. consulté le 22 mai 2017.

Auteur

Catherine E. Clark

Catherine E. Clark is Assistant Professor of French Studies in Foreign Languages and Literatures at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Southern California. She has also published research about European understandings of Chinese religious practices in engraver Bernard Picart’s Cérémonies et coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde (1723-1743).

Droits d’auteur

Propriété intellectuelle