In a quartier of Paris that has seen much renovation and new construction in recent decades, Bercy Village stands as a kind of model of what a modern shopping center might offer to build community. There are numerous shaded, terraced restaurants and cafes along the main alleyway, and extensive programs, at least in the summer, of music and art, including public pianos. Several years ago I dropped by Bercy to see a photo exhibit ranging through the two passages that lead into the center of the Village (Albert’s and Verzane’s portraits of European bathers). This time I was seduced, so to speak, by the promise of Robert Doisneau photos of an older and dying Bercy: when it was the wine market of Paris.
The photos are indeed classic Doisneau style, complete with several cat groupings. In the sweet photo above, note the fallen leaves floating gracefully in the rainwater on the barrel head. From the photos themselves it might be difficult to discern that they record the end of an era. By the time he undertook this project, in the mid-1970s, he himself was well known as a Paris street photographer (more on this here, as well as in many other commentators’ observations). His work was humane, whimsical, comic, and aesthetically gorgeous. The men who pose here for him, or give him fleeting smiles as they carry on their work, clearly are comfortable with Doisneau capturing their images.
Some of the photos are in color, which seems to have been pretty new for Doisneau. I don’t know how he decided between black/white and color here. This was pre-digital, of course, so one had to at least make a decision to load up the camera with one film type or the other, or carry two bodies.
The photographs are presented in a way that complements both the photos and their background, the pale stone of the passages. The exhibit will be up another month (until October 2). Here is a press release of the exhibit, as well as a lovely photo of Doisneau.
By the way, the Maison Doisneau — the photographer’s old house at Gentilly — carries on the spirit of his work by mounting several photo exhibits every year. It is a graceful space. Several years ago I first encountered the work of the NOOR photographers at that address.