29 January 2017

"Bridges of Paris" by Michael Saint James

This book offers a big contrast to The Glow of Paris, reviewed in my last post, even though ostensibly its subject is the same.

Both books are hefty coffee table photographic surveys of the river bridges of central Paris. Glow squeezes 35 bridges into 208 pages, while Michael Saint James's Bridges of Paris fits 37 bridges into 280 pages (Citron Bay Press, 280pp, 2015).

The photographs in Glow are all taken at night, in black-and-white, and in a fine tradition of photography which takes as its subject landscape, architecture, and light. The Bridges of Paris is more varied in approach and style.


Most photos are taken in daytime, some on short exposure, and others on long exposure, traffic and pedestrians becoming only a blurred presence. Most photos are reproduced in full-page size, but there are also plenty of smaller photos, taking in not just overviews of the bridges but also details such as sculpture or love-locks.


Each bridge is accompanied by an explanatory text giving key facts (dates and dimensions) as well as something of each structure's history. There are satellite maps to locate the bridges, and a very nice introduction with several reproductions of historical paintings of key bridges.


However, the main attraction to this book is its focus on the bridges not only as beautiful architecture, but as lived spaces. Most of the photographs include people using the bridges, people looking at the bridges, people looking out from the bridges. In several photographs you'd hardly know there was a bridge there at all: they focus on how they provide public spaces, occupied by artists, street traders and performers.


The quality of the photography is probably more uneven than in Glow, but there are some stunning photographs in Bridges of Paris, and the sheer variety shows how each bridge's character changes with season, time of day and weather.


There is more information on the book at its dedicated website. US readers can pick the book up fairly easily from amazon.com (currently at a significantly discounted price). Readers elsewhere may find it more difficult to get hold of, but for any admirer of Paris and its bridges, I think it's certainly worth the effort - it's an excellent book.





No comments: