Photography and Haussmannization

image:Louis Daguerre | Boulevard du Temple, Paris 3e, 1838

“We are used to seeing photographs as history, as evidence of the past. Roland Barthes, in Camera Lucida, eloquently described the perception of a photograph as a kind of death, a stop-time that flows not forward but ‘back from presentation to retention.’ Yet this early period of French photography makes manifest another layer of complexity, of temporal and spatial reality, that cannot be adequately explained by this formula.  The image makers describing Paris during the mid-19th century were, like Haussmann, forging a new visual image of the city parallel to the prefect’s own; whether working on commission or on their own, they too were shaping urban space, in two dimensions as opposed to three. And interestingly enough, these new visions, as if possessed of a certain clairvoyance, appeared years before the construction crews arrived, making these pictures a sort of magic mirror through which the then Parisian future can be dimly perceived” (Shelley Rice, Parisian Views . Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000. pp. 10-11)

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