The Glow of Paris

Ponts de Paris

Review by Grady Harp

Gary Zuercher reveals Paris as few have ever experienced. His luminous black and white photographs define the origin of the Paris’ moniker as the City of Lights. His subject – the bridges, after dark, glowing in the lights that make the night city live – Paris without people, without semblances of activity, simply a mystery of the paths where in his images only silence views the glow of the city.

While many famous photographers have captured the spirit, the romance, and that special indescribable magnetism of Paris, no one to date has concentrated on the bridges of Paris as the focal point of sharing the magic of this city. Why the bridges? The bridges connect the city, the people on both sides of the Seine, and serve as the foundation for a study of the history of a city from 1607 (Pont Neuf) to 2006 (the Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir). While these varied structures are fascinating to the architectural eye in the daylight, when night falls (and that is about 11 PM in Paris’ summers) and the lights on the bridges are on is when the magic begins.

Gary Zuercher spent years researching the history of each of the thirty-five bridges while discovering how to honor them as art. As he states in the book, ‘Almost all the photography was shot during the winter months, primarily because Paris isn’t fully dark in the summer until around 11 PM, and the lights on the bridges are turned off at midnight. In the winter dark arrives early, at 5 PM.’ And even his discovery for the presentation of the 35 bridges glowing with the lighting of the bridges and the city was a happy discovery of surprise: ‘One night, while photographing in the city, I greatly overexposed a shot by mistake. As happens many times, a mistake can be the precursor to something positive. Such was the case with this mistake. The negative from that shot produced a breathtaking photograph. It was a photograph of the Pont Alexandre III, one of the most beautiful bridges in Paris, if not the world. That photograph inspired me to photograph all thirty-five bridges at night. The bridges are certainly alluring during the daytime, but at night they become majestic. They transform, with a luminescence that cannot be seen in the light of day. They glow.’

The layout of the book is that of an art book – but an art book that not only celebrates each of the bridges as bathed in the luminous and mysterious and romantic glow of the lights, but also gives a fine history of each of the bridges, a technique of both history and science that is enlightening. The bridges have been divided into four groups. In the first group are the upstream bridges; in the second are the bridges on the two islands, Île de la Cité and Île Saint-Louis; in the third group are the bridges from Pont du Carrousel, at the Louvre, to Pont des Invalides; and in the fourth group are the downstream bridges.

As for the photographs, each of the multiple views of all of the bridges must be viewed to appreciate the stillness of Paris at night – without people without distractions or noise – just the rich black and white images produced on the finest paper. This is as fine an art book of sophisticated photography as has been published – a source of light unlike any other. C’est Magnifique!

ISBN: 9780990630906

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