This bridge is the Pont d’Iéna. See the statues at the far end? There are two more at the opposite end, all warriors on horseback that together represent the ancient peoples that shaped France: A Gaul, a Greek, a Roman, and an Arab. Their combined philosophies and industry ultimately gave rise to one of the first modern democratic nations.
Arab warrior on the Left Bank
This is my favorite Paris postcard, and I’ve shared it many times, as Snail’s Postcard Post has had many features on Paris–from celebrations of Bastille Day to mourning the Charlie Hebdo shooting.
Since Friday’s terrorist attacks, I’ve been feeling like I should do another Paris post, but I didn’t want it to just repeat the others. I was also unsure whether a postcard post would be too frivolous at this time.
Reflecting on the previous Paris entries, I noticed they focus on architecture–the symbols of Paris, like the Eiffel Tower postcard above. But looking through my collection of Paris postcards, I realized I have a number of postcards that focus on people.
The people of Paris are resilient. It was they who overturned the French monarchy, paying the price of the Revolution and Napoleonic empire. The battles of WWI came right to the city limits, and in WWII, Parisians endured complete Nazi occupation. None of this managed to kill their culture.
As Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Joann Sfar wrote after the shootings in January, “thank you for #prayforparis, but we don’t need more religion! Our faith goes to Music! Kisses! Life! Champagne and Joy! #parisisaboutlife”
It’s a somewhat confusing message to the American mind, and from the perspective of many other cultures. Champagne and kisses seem frivolous in light of such events. Indeed, French (particularly Parisian) priorities have often presented a stumbling block in cross-cultural relations. Author Rebecca Solnit posted a picture on Friday of San Francisco City Hall lit up in the Tri-Color. A French woman pointed out that the colors were in the wrong order. An American joked back that if a non-French person was bleeding to death and asked a French person for a tourniquet, the French person would correct their pronunciation.
But perhaps it’s the Parisian preoccupation with the frivolous that ensures the city retains its character, withstanding everything that comes its way. During the Nazi occupation for instance, Lucien Lelong–head of the Paris ateliers guild–saved hundreds of Parisian garment workers’ jobs by essentially making the Germans doubt their fashion sense. (See this post for details.)
Mulling this over, it now seems completely appropriate to express support for Paris through something as lighthearted as postcards…postcards of the people of Paris, with lots of kissing. Couple d’amoureux dans un petit café, quartier Italie
(Lovers in a small cafe, Italian quarter)
Paris, c. 1932. Photograph by Brassaï Quai Malaquais, Paris, 1953, Willy Ronis (1910-2009)
Reverse side:Carrefour Sèvres-Babylone (Sèvres-Babylon Intersection), Paris, 1948Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville, Paris, 1950, by Robert Doisneau (1912-1994)Paris sewer worker. Postcard from the Paris Sewers Museum.
From the Roger-Viollet archives. Photographer anonymous.
Roger-Viollet is a documentary photo agency founded in Paris in 1938, and still at its original location on the rue de Seine. When founders Hélène Roger-Viollet and her husband Jean-Victor Fischer passed away, they bequeathed the business and collections to the City of Paris. It seems Getty Images has since acquired some Roger-Viollet photographs, which can be viewed here. It’s like looking at the history of Paris.