Atget, Charles Meryon & Rue des Chantres
After writing about Atget, Kertész and Google’s photographs of a small street last year, I was in Paris and made a detour to the center to see what is happening at the Rue des Chantres. I shot the above photo trying to approximate the Atget, but I use a Rolleiflex, and did not crop the square to match Atget’s ratio.
Searching for more history of Rue des Chantres, I came across this etching by Charles Meryon, 60 years before Atget’s photograph. The photograph of Rue des Chantres seems to be a direct quotation of the Meryon. The photograph and sketch are taken from the top of stairs, and Atget’s use of tripod would have limited where he would/could set up the camera. Meryon’s etching features an interesting moment, which seems to be a group of men, with a few soldiers. A woman and her child walk around them to avoid what seems to be a fight.
Meryon was a popular artist and source for photographers. Here’s some background from Marja Warehime’s book on Brassaï (bottom of page 49), where it’s mentioned Meryon would sometimes base his work on daguerreotypes. While using different mediums, Meryon and Atget were in the same line of work, documenting architecture and scenes around Paris.
In the Kertész photo, you glimpse inside a tiny bar where people are huddled, drinking during the day, below the sign documenting the flood of 1910 (“CRUE”). A bar in a medieval-sized alley is bound to give an American those feelings Americans have about European street life, but nooks like this are now filled in with million euro pied-à-terres; the area around Notre Dame is a permanent Martin Parr zone.