Dean O'Brien's Blog

Paris…A place where street photography is alive and well

with 4 comments

Well after just completing my first year at Coventry University I was ready for a well earned break.  This came in the form of a trip to Paris.  Now I’m not really one for going ‘sight seeing’ so to speak but its obviously unavoidable in a city such as this.  Paris has numerous famous attractions and its inevitable that one will come across certain landmarks.  However, this can (and was) used to my advantage.  The main advantage to being close to these attractions is that everybody has a camera.  Therefore, for somebody interested in street photography like myself  I can carry on virtually un-noticed.  Rather than being interested in the Eiffel tower I was more interested in the people who had come to see this site.

From the lovers sitting on the bench to the old lady eating the ice cream….nobody escaped my attention.  Sometimes, I was indeed ‘waiting for that decisive moment’.  I was particularly interested in the body of a dead pigeon which somebody had placed a single white rose next to.  I think this is what I find so interesting about street photography.  It is all the un-answered questions.  The how?, when?, and why?  These are people and things with whom I will never talk to, so the questions within my image will always remain unanswered.  I want the viewer to engage with my image and wonder about the narrative contained within it.

When Peter Dench came to talk at my University last year and he spoke in depth about his photographic practice.  I remember him talking about the day of Lady Diana’s funeral.  He waited for about two hours on the bridge waiting for the funeral car to come under the motorway bridge so he could grab some shots.  When the car did eventually pass underneath he missed it all….Why?  Because he was too busy trying to take a shot of a label stuck on the bottom of a ladies shoe.  This story inspired me to look at my own photographic practice from a different perspective.  I look for small details that possibly contain a narrative within themselves.  Seeking out the ‘less obvious’ shot..

There was a huge Police presence on the streets of Paris when I arrived.  This was due to Algeria playing in the World Cup.  They were expecting trouble although I am pleased to report that I never witnessed any.  It was at this point that I became aware of Pro-Algerian stickers plastered all over the place.  After a brief visit to a cafe and a chat with the owner I was given an insight into the whole french/algerian situation and the history behind it.

This was my second trip to France this year so far and I am hoping to get back there again in August.  Although only a very short distance from England it is a totally different culture.  More relaxed, more liberal and much better for photographers.

The images which I took whilst I was in Paris are not based around any particular theme.  I was just enjoying being free to shoot what I liked.  Artistic freedom at its best…Au Revoir!


Written by Dean O'Brien

June 17, 2010 at 12:13 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Hi Dean

    A great post and some great images. Nice to see that you are finally moving in close as we had spoken about before.

    It is one of those ironies that shooting somewhere different ie Paris you feel free and liberated to photograph freely, were back home it can feel intimidating.

    The next task maybe to try that approach in the UK and feel at ease, something I struggle with.


    Rick Medlock

    June 17, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    • Thanks Rick and some great advice as usual. Yes I think you are correct about feeling more free when we are away from home soil so to speak.

      I’m off to Silverstone tomorrow so it should be a great opportunity to get in close with more members of the public. It will be interesting to see how the shots compare to these.

      Dean O'Brien

      June 17, 2010 at 12:43 pm

  2. I have to concur with Rick.
    I too feel wary on the UK street. It could just be because we live here though.

    Thought it was just me that felt this way. Returning, you get the impression there is so much aggression and paranoia bubbling under the surface. Imagined or not, it puts you off for a short while.
    Will be interesting to see how Ricks shots compare at Silverstone.

    Harpreet Khara

    June 17, 2010 at 4:07 pm

  3. ….meant your shots at Silverstone. A good experiment.

    Harpreet Khara

    June 17, 2010 at 4:09 pm

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