Eugene Atget, Maison Chenier 97, rue de Clery, 1907
Why does the past look so good? Is it just the burgundy bloom of the albumen emulsions, the tones of orthochromatic films, the softness of uncoated lenses, the abstraction of monochrome, the absence of cars, the presence of cobblestones? This lovely Atget, made 106 years ago, seems enchanting and evocative, and describes Paris the way we want it to be – charmant.
The corner building was the home of André Chenier, a poet during the French Revolution – you can see a plaque to him above the first floor window. But why isn’t there a plaque to Atget himself, the greatest photographer of all time? (I make that claim with the backing of Joel Meyerowitz who named him “our Mozart”)
By contrast, look at this serviceable but uninteresting photograph of the same place, made only a few years ago. Why does the present look so drab?
Palagret, Chenier 97, rue de Clery , 2009