While I was not in Paris for the shelter-in-place, my dear friend Madeline was. Here is Paris in her words and film photographs from that time — a stark, somber, and intimate portrait of the city. Madeline is a gifted street photographer. You can find these moments on her Instagram.
I got to photograph Paris during a time that all the elements of the city you subconsciously depend on to be in movement were suddenly brought to a halt. Overnight, the City of Lights became almost like a ghost town in comparison to her usual springtime. Photography helped me find interest and beauty in the quiet and gave me creativity in a challenging and complicated time.
May 11th, the day quarantine ended, I rushed to drop off my film to be developed. How I saw Paris during confinement felt clearer to me when I received back the scans than it did when I was lining up and taking these shots.
Receiving these images was very surreal in a certain sense. Looking at them, I realized they felt so personal to me, and they helped me process a time in history that was so quiet and yet so intense, so heightened and so unknown.
The quiet streets where far less people were walking; the empty spaces where people normally gather; the empty bike racks next to the Sorbonne; chairs piled high behind closed café doors… There is an emptiness captured but at the same time the city was still filled with people, they were just inside their homes.
I think that is the juxtaposition that evokes the strongest feelings out of me. Internally, I was processing a very heavy time, but externally I had such quiet and focus as I worked to capture these moments on film. The city in return was silent on the outside but was buzzing with conversations and thoughts by all those who were tucked away within her walls.
I won’t ever miss a quarantined Paris, but the details I noticed within it I’ll never forget.