Eugène Atget is famous for providing one of the most thorough photo documentations of Paris in the city’s history. He managed to capture the streets and everyday life at the beginning of the twentieth century, and helped to document the ever-growing city. By revisiting his works, by both Rauschenberg and Julia Schloss, the development and evolution of Paris can be visually mapped out. Three photos of 31 Rue Saint Dennis at three different points through history show how much one building can change in a century, and through this one can only imagine how much the entirety of Paris has grown. The three pictures share some similarities, but many differences as well, that can be used to discover the neighborhoods atmosphere and the changes modern times have brought.
When revisiting 31 Rue Saint Dennis, it was so drastically different from both Atget and Rauschenberg’s photos that it was almost unrecognizable. The only similarity that allowed resemblance to the older photos is that the wall is on a corner that sticks out, and there still remains a slight outcropping about a story above street level. The site has completely been altered, except for these few little tells. When looking at Atget, Rauschenberg and Julia’s pictures all together, it almost looks like three completely different buildings. In Atget’s time, the building was a dark color, with a large sphinx painted on its side. The name of the current store was also written onto the wall, and a window is on the facing side showing products from the store. The two outcroppings on the building are virtually the only aspects that can still be seen in Rauschenberg’s photo, otherwise the building has drastically changed. Not only has the color of the building changed from dark to white, there is also a large billboard/sign covering where the sphinx used to be visible. The image from today has gone through even more drastic change. An extension has been added to the building to allow for enclosed outdoor seating for the burger restaurant. This has made the building unrecognizable, except for the inverted corner and the topmost outcropping that is still exposed.
There are a couple tells in the 2018 picture that shows it was taken in modern times. One main one is that there is now a large pole with movie advertisements in front of the store, which did not allow for taking the photo at the same angle as the other photographers. There is also construction present on the site where the photo was taken. Although Atget and Rauschenberg’s times might have had renovations in the area, they are not present in the photos. The construction in Julia’s photo shows the modernity of it. The scaffolds, tarps, and signage again bring the photo to present day. The building is also now a burger restaurant, demonstrating the gentrification that has occurred in the neighborhood. Other than the pole, the construction, and a Vespa parked in the shot, the storefront itself remains fairly timeless. The poster that was put up in Rauschenberg’s time is no longer there, and only a plain painted wall remains.
It is hard to tell what the area of Rue Saint Dennis was like during Rauschenberg and Atget’s times from just the photographs. It is unclear the atmosphere or the type of people that frequent the neighborhood. The location of this photograph is in the Marais neighborhood, a short walk from Centre de Pompidou. This is a bustling neighborhood, that is popular amongst both locals and tourists, with many clothing stores and popular restaurants. The Marais neighborhood has long been a trendy and commercialized district, but there is no tell of this in either Atget or Rauschenberg’s photos. The modern photo best shows the true representation of the neighborhood as a whole, due to it being focused on a restaurant and its inclusion of people. Cafés and restaurants of all different types were very typical of the Marais, and this burger restaurant in a café style exemplifies the type of stores present on the streets. Another way that Julia’s photo exemplifies the neighborhood is by showing the people. When walking along the streets around the photo, they were completely crowded. The street right along the restaurant has been turned into primarily a walking lane and possibly might be closed off to cars entirely, which is a change from the time of Rauschenberg’s photo. This can be seen by the van that is parked on the street in Rauschenberg’s photograph. In Julia’s collage, there are multiple people walking in the middle of the streets to show this change. This is different from either of the other photos, that have no people visible at all. It is hard to say that the amount of people present is a change or not, because Atget took extra steps to ensure the lack of people, including using long shutter speeds or taking the photos early in the morning. The people define the neighborhood, with a mixture of locals and tourists, the Marais is truly unique and excluding people from the photograph removes information about the neighborhood itself.
All three photographs of 31 Rue Saint Dennis show the drastic changes the scene has gone through, each photo more modern than the last. There are currently additions to the building have made it almost unrecognizable, but a few architectural aspects has allowed it to be distinguished from other buildings. Although it seems that the neighborhood has always been fairly commercialized, Julia’s modern photo does the best at exemplifying the popularity of the area due to her inclusion of pedestrians. A photographic journal of Paris allows one to reflect on how much the city has grown and developed while still maintaining its roots.