A photographic portrait of contemporary Paris

Paris is going through a period of rapid change and expansion. We speak to the photographers who document this change, who aim to show a vision of the city that goes beyond its romanticized image.

When Netflix released the TV show Emily in Paris in 2020, it was immediately criticized for its stereotypical view of France and the French capital. The main character is an American woman who teaches her rude and lazy colleagues the value of hard work; Paris is a glamorous dreamscape in which almost everyone is white. “Paris is not just about the Louvre, Saint-Germain and the Tuileries Gardens,” Parisian Alexandra Milhat told NBC News, in a story explaining the fury. “Paris has very diverse neighborhoods with different cultures.”

It’s a lighthearted example but it taps into real concerns about Paris and its representation in contemporary culture. Over the past two years there have been many photographic projects published and exhibited about the city, many by Paris-based image makers all trying to dig a little deeper.

Belleville (2022) by Thomas Boivin, for example, focuses on a traditionally working-class neighborhood in northeast Paris, while Half-Light (2020) by Loic Seguin is a powerful series of portraits of the same neighborhood. The Princes of the Street by Clarisse Hahn [The Princes of the Street] was shot in a popular and multicultural Barbes-Rochechouart and exhibited at the Rencontres d’Arles photography festival in 2021; Paris Nord (2021) by Myr Muratet includes images of poor individuals living around Gare du Nord and beyond Le Périphérique, the ring road around central Paris.

Above: From Périphérique by Mohamed Bourouissa, published by Loose Joints; © Mohamed Bourouissa; Above: From Belleville by Thomas Boivin, published by Stanley Barker; ©Thomas Boivin
Thomas Boivin Belleville 5
From Belleville by Thomas Boivin, published by Stanley Barker; ©Thomas Boivin
Loic Seguin
From Half-Light by Loic Seguin, published by Void; © Loic Seguin