La Seine

River Seine, Paris , day and night images. Tribute to Notre Dame

“This is the Seine, in its turbulence I have mixed and I have recognized myself”

Giuseppe Ungaretti

Paris river seine photography

On April 15, a gray and typical day, I was on my way back to Milan when the news appeared online that Notre Dame had caught fire. My immediate reaction was to minimize the tragedy in my mind, to convince myself that it was simply a minor event. The next day, however, the world awoke to the images of one of the greatest symbols of Western culture terribly damaged, with its famous “fleche” or spire, brought down by the force of fire.  Paris river seine photography

It was then my memory brought back to me the daytime images that are part of this gallery. They are from the last time I was in Paris, on a day of extraordinary light, May 3, 2015. The preceding days had been gray, rainy, and wintry. But on Sunday, May 3, almost as if by providence, spring exploded in all of its splendor. When I reached the banks of the Seine on foot, the dazzling sunlight that shone on its waters created such a kaleidoscope of geometry that I was drawn towards it. I walked along the banks of the Seine with my camera, starting my journey on the Pont Alexandre III and finishing it hours later at Notre Dame, where I saw the sun set. The next day in the morning I left Paris and went on to other destinations, and would not see Notre Dame and the Seine again. Since that trip, the tragic events of the Bataclan and the attack in Nice, to which I was a personal witness, have imposed a long absence for me from France.  Paris river seine photography

“Walking in Paris is walking towards me”, were the words by Cortázar I recalled that day when I learned the terrible news of the fire, and they reminded me of the indelible nights in the 90s when I often walked on the bridges of the Seine. I can hear once more the voices of people passing by, breaking the soft silence of the night, and I see again the colors printed across my old Fuji and Kodachrome slides. To me then the Seine felt eternal, and life along it timeless.  Paris river seine photography

In the space that connects a far corner of the Eiffel Tower on one end and Notre Dame on the other, you can walk a path through history that seems timeless. “Paris est la grande salle de lecture d’une bibliothèque que traverse la Seine”, “Paris is the great reading room of a library that crosses the Seine,” said Walter Benjamin. Here are bridges, palaces and buildings full of history, events and places that have inspired masterpieces of art, or simple personal stories that are remembered throughout life. That space where the present meets the past has always been for me a place of refuge, a place unalterable by time, in which I “mix and I recognize myself”, and where I am always the same. As in the “Perseguidor” of Julio Cortázar, the Seine is for me a kind of “Place Furstenberg” where I go as Johnny Carter did because I feel that time does not pass there. And yet, this tragic event heavy with symbolism has altered the unchanging Paris for me. I will return to Paris. I will walk along the Seine again, with its new face, its unchanging cathedral now changed, and this will no doubt mark a separation, a division, a distance crossed. It will make me see that I have crossed a line, and that time has indeed passed. Paris river seine photography

Pablo Munini ©, Milan, 15th May 2019

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