46 rue des Archives is tucked on a quiet corner in the Marais neighborhood. The historically Jewish and LGBT district can now be likened to New York City’s SoHo, with hip retail and dining amidst residential spaces. The three images of the building at 46 rue des Archives show the parts of Paris and the Marais neighborhood that have changed and the remnants of the past that have remained.
In Atget’s original photograph of 46 rue des Archives, the most prominent feature of the photo is the age of the buildings and its neighbors. The building in the far left of the picture is dark and dingy, while the building in the center appears as though it was once white, but had grayed past its original paint. A wooden cart sits in the cobblestone streets to the left of the white building, a clear mark of the time period. The main building appears to house market stalls and is covered in painted lettering, advertising these businesses. The shop at the center of the photograph, shaded by a large awning, is dark and cluttered.
The biggest change between photographs can be found between Atget’s and Rauschenberg’s images. While the building on the far left in Atget’s photo cannot be seen, the white building takes the main focus of the picture with fresh paint, clean shutters, and signs of life in the greenery spilling from window boxes. The building appears fresh and lively, much like the growing neighborhood. A new building built directly behind the white one peeks into the frame with an exposed brick wall. Instead of a wooden cart, a truck idles in the left of the photograph, slathered with graffiti. The hodgepodge shop in the left part of the building is replaced with a Mobil gas station with two pumps at either end of the corner. The now tidy white building hints that the neighborhood might have grown in tourism and income.
Today, the building and its neighbors have kept their historic charm and now house high end retail locations. The gas station, a blip in the storefront history of this building, has been replaced by a women’s clothing store. The store’s interior is built around exposed brick walls and columns, likely part of the building’s original infrastructure. A fine men’s shoe store is in the right section of the white building. Peering in, this store also has exposed brick walls. This exposed brick is one of the only signs that this building was anything but a hip store like so many others in the Marais. The building on the far left of Atget’s photograph reappears after its departure in Rauschenberg’s photo with a fresh coat of paint, blue window dressings, and more retail shops. This building now holds a bank, with an ATM situated not far from where the wooden cart lay in Atget’s photograph. This shows that the neighborhood and its retail locations have become more affluent and a larger commercial attraction. The buildings have not varied from Atget’s photograph until now, but they show the changes that 46 rue des Archives and the greater Marais neighborhood have experienced since Atget first photographed the corner.
The Marais district’s rich history is hard to spot among the trendy new commercial areas. Old buildings are re-purposed into high end retail stores, concept shops, cafes, and museums. It still has the feel of a residential neighborhood, with sleepy streets curling off of the busy main boulevards and winding avenues that break up the shopping hubs. If only looking at the photographs of 46 rue des Archives, one would likely notice that the buildings are old, but the shops are new. The Marais is brimming with history, but this part of the neighborhood’s character quietly hums in the background amidst the loud new commerce in many areas.
The photograph series of 46 rue des Archives do not show this history of the neighborhood. In fact, the age of the buildings themselves can only be seen from peeks of exposed brick. The buildings that Atget photographed still stand, but have been carefully maintained to keep their fresh, charming appearance. The two retail stores that can be seen in our recent photo of the area appear to be fashionable, and likely high-priced, clothing. Atget’s photograph of the corner also appears to portray retail, albeit a much different style of commercial stores than the ones in the neighborhood today. The strangest departure from these retail stores is the gas station that is centered in Rauschenberg’s photograph. In fact, there is no gas station in the immediate area today, and no hint that gas pumps once lined the sidewalk in front of 46 rue des Archives, save two square patches of dark asphalt. It is strange that there was a gas station on this relatively narrow, quiet street in the neighborhood, and it is not surprising that it no longer exists on that corner.
Although the building at 46 rue des Archives has seen little alteration besides paint since Atget’s original photograph of the corner, the space in and around it has undergone major changes. The Marais is a trendy retail area that sits atop years of history that cannot immediately be seen. The photographs of 46 rue des Archives show this phenomenon well. The white building has housed a variety of retail stores and window shutters, but there are no remnants of the earlier spaces in the building in the later photographs. If only looking at the most recent photograph of 46 rue des Archives, viewers see a historical, affluent area that places new, trendy attractions in old spaces. This corner of the Marais does not shout its history at first glance, but its history can be found in details of the three photographs.