I have discovered the city of Paris through my own lens. However, the city of lights has been revealed to me from a host of photographers over decades. As much as I love to capture this legendary city through my own lens, it is the work of the great photographers that have helped me to experience and love the city, even years before I stepped onto its streets.
But it is the recent book by one of my favorite photographers, William Albert Allard that helps me to yet again see this classic city with new eyes. In William Albert Allard Paris: Eye of the Flaneur, he showcases work that he has been produced of the city over the past three decades. Some of these image were produced while on assignment for National Geographic, while others were created during personal visits. But you will not see much difference here between the assigned and personal work because Allard's approaches it all with the sensibility of the street photographer that he is.
Flaneur means idler or saunterer and it is this sensibility that Allard uses to describe how he wanders through the street of Paris, without intention or agenda. Instead, he allows light and color and gesture to draw the attention of his camera. The resulting images go well beyond merely being aesthetically rich and vibrant, but also reveal the city in a very personal and intimate way. There are no picture postcards to be found here.
Though Allard is often associated with his work with the American West, his eye is no less poignant and insightful when capturing the nuances of Paris. His willingness to simply explore and embrace the unexpected, allows him to not only capture photographs that are beautiful, but which also cut through the surface of the city's well-honed facade and reveals its real and sometimes contradictory reality.
The photographs are often beautifully rendered across two pages. And though I often prefer to not have a gutter run through a printed image, it does not take away from my appreciation of the work that Allard has gathered in his latest title.
Whether or not you have traveled to Paris, this book provides a glimpse into how a master photographer uses his skills, talent and experience to bring a personal voice to an oft-photographed subject. For fans of Allard's work, this book offers yet another opportunity to appreciate his wonderful talent. And for those who are unfamiliar him, this book provides the perfect opportunity to discover both a legendary photographer and a legendary city.