Magazine article USA TODAY

Lighting Up the Night: The Glow of Paris Captures All 35 of the French Capital's Bridges in Striking Black-and-White Photographs

Magazine article USA TODAY

Lighting Up the Night: The Glow of Paris Captures All 35 of the French Capital's Bridges in Striking Black-and-White Photographs

Article excerpt

I WAS SHOOTING one night in Paris and greatly overexposed a photo of the famous Pont Alexandre III. As so often happens in art, a mistake became a precursor to something positive, as the resulting photo was stunning; the luminosity just took my breath away. I then decided to photograph all 35 of the Paris bridges--at night. I made a second mistake when I estimated it would take a year to complete the project. In reality, it took five years for the photography and another year for the historical research and writing.

I split my time between Paris and Washington, D.C. My love for Paris began in Mexico, in the Cancun airport terminal, where I met a beautiful young French girl named Dominique. We sat together on the plane to Mexico City; I went on to business meetings in Guadalajara. That evening, after my return to Mexico City, we met for drinks. A month later we met for dinner in Paris, at the Plaza Athenee, and from there our time together blossomed. Dominique became my wife and the reason I have spent such a large portion of my life in Paris.

As for my favorite photograph, look no further than "Six Bridges," which captures much of the city, including the river Seine with the Eiffel Tower in the background. It was the most difficult to take., I needed a location scout, whom I told that I wanted to shoot from the top of the Church of San Gervais. My scout went to get approval but, because that is where the nuns sleep, no men are allowed to go there at night. However, within a few hours, I received the okay to work from the top of City Hall. I had to rent mountain climbing equipment and shoes, and we had to go out from the second floor and climb up the building. It was a real adventure getting up there, and then I shot there for many hours that night.

Pont San Michel, meanwhile, is a well-known bridge connecting lie de la Cite with the left bank of the river. It was on, and adjacent to, Pont Saint-Michel that the Paris Massacre occurred. The events of Oct. 17, 1961, took place during the Algerian War. It started with a protest march, with about 30,000 demonstrating for Algerian independence and the lifting of a curfew instituted by the prefect of police, Maurice Papon, the same man that, in 1998, was convicted of crimes against humanity for his participation in the deportation of more than 1,600 Jews to concentration camps during World War II.

The protest was planned to take place in three sectors of the city: Place de l'Etoile, Place de la Republique, and Place Saint Michel next to the bridge. Police rounded up some of the demonstrators and beat them back into Metro stations, while others were shot or drowned after being thrown into the river from Pont Saint-Michel. The incidents went virtually unreported at the time.

The next day, the police reported two deaths. In the years that followed, the numbers of those who died varied, depending on who was doing the telling. Historians put the figure at between 32 and 300. In 1998, the French government acknowledged that the massacre had occurred and that 40 people died in the melee. However, the exact number killed by the security forces remains a heavily debated issue. The most famous photograph of the events that day is a shot that shows a white banner draped across the Pont Saint-Michel, on which is written "lei on noie les Algeriens!' ("Here we drown the Algerians")

Forty years later, Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe placed a plaque on Pont Saint-Michel commemorating the date. It reads: "A la memoire des nombreux Algeriens tues lors de la sanglante repression de la manifestation pacifique du 17 octobre 1961." (In memory of the numerous Algerians killed during the bloody suppression of the peaceful demonstration on 17 October 1961).

As its name indicates, Petit Pont is the smallest bridge crossing the Seine. As reported by Edmond Jean Francis Barbier in his journal of April 27, 1718, fire destroyed the Petit Pont and all 22 buildings on it. …

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