by C.J. Weshinskey
National Geographic hosted a seminar in Paris, the focus of which was photography and travel, my two favorite things. I had always wanted to see Paris: the romance, the mouth-watering delicacies, the architecture. Before my father-in-law died, he told me, “Everyone should see Paris at least once.” And I was going.
I stepped off the plane and was greeted by my very own Parisian. Matt is a friend of mine I’ve known for ages; he invited me to rest my head on his especially Parisian couch (teacup blue, purchased at IKEA).
After months of planning my chic attire and expansive itinerary I was slapped in the face by the coldest week Paris has seen in twenty years and my carefully planned mod look was marred by a faded, black winter cap pulled taut over my numbed ears. I looked like a twelve-year-old mugger.
My plan was to see twenty districts and both banks in four days.
I grabbed my map and my Canon 10D and headed out, aware of the limited hours of daylight left to me, but seduced by my environment nonetheless. I trudged up the streets and stairs to the luminescent Montmarte and through centuries-old archways, I sipped espresso, I nibbled on delightfully French lemon crêpes. I recorded with my camera the geniality of the Parisian shops, capturing the lingering sweetness of truffles laced with cocoa, the simplicity of night falling on the city of lights.
A trillion people have photographed Parisian monuments and boutiques. My objective was to shoot from different angles, to capture moments that had yet to be recorded.
I watched construction workers straighten crooked nails, one hand turning the metal while the other hammered the bend. I admired their closeness, their methodical routines. Not far down the road, a poodle forced its owner to a halt to lift his leg to the café sign. I laughed and snapped a few shots of that charmer and his interlude with the menu written in chalk.
Chilly, I boarded the Metro and quietly made my way back to Matt’s flat. I noticed locals, likely affected by Paris’ high unemployment rate, search for treasure in garbage cans strewn carelessly about the road below me. Gloriously wealthy passersby huddled together, collectively ignoring the poverty nipping at their heels. Street vendors vied for attention from eager shoppers, who fluttered their way around the city while doe-eyed newlyweds kissed in a doorway.
I leaned back in my seat and closed my eyes. The impoverished and the affluent, the pastries and the pancakes for Americans, mornings in the café, dogs in the airport, window shopping and flower stands, the people: these are what make Paris beautiful. These are what I photographed. This is what I will remember.