Photographers' Blog

Postcards from the capital of romance

Paris, France

By Christian Hartmann

In 2012, more than 15 million tourists visited the French capital, with its reputation for spots charged with history. They are also drawn by its eternal charm and landscape which appears to leap from a movie set like an invite for a romantic stroll.

Just a year ago I left the Zurich lake-front where I had spent nearly six years on assignment, covering principally sports and economic stories. Upon arrival in Switzerland, I was impressed by the potential beauty around the lake where residents gathered once the warm days of Spring arrived offering photographers interesting possibilities. Naturally, the new Parisian that I am, I headed to the banks of the Seine River this summer to capture moments that define the charm of Paris. Who hasn’t seen the famous photograph of a couple kissing in front of the Paris City Hall in 1950? Ever since, generations of lovers have kissed in the four corners of the city.

First stop, the Pont des Arts, the bridge which links the Louvre Museum with the Institute of France on Paris’ Left Bank. Since 2008 couples have attached padlocks to the fencing on the bridge in a symbol of their eternal love, as they take in the spectacular view of the Ile de la Cite, the Notre-Dame Cathedral, and the series of bridges which cross the Seine River, linking the city. At the end of the summer, a dark cloud appeared over the bridge in the form of the additional weight from the padlocks of love. There was concern that entire fencing sections could fall from the bridge, threatening the “bateaux mouches” (excursion boats) which transport tourists daily along the river. The question was raised whether these symbols of love would be removed.

Second stop on my pilgrimage was the Louvre. In the heart of the city, this former palace of kings is the biggest museum in the city, with some nearly 10 million visitors a year. The glass and metal pyramid structure, controversial at the time of its construction in the 1980’s, is on every tourist’s “Must See” list.

Next stop, the Saint-Martin canal. In the north eastern part of the city, this 4.5 kms (2.7 miles) long canal links the Paris pleasure boat basin off the Seine to the Villette. Majestic trees line the canal which comprises a series of nine locks and two bridges to create a romantic old Paris atmosphere.

A New York love story

A couple kiss while waiting for the subway in New York May 11, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

New York is consistently touted as a cold, aggressive, and hectic city with no personal connections possible. A populace of hyper-efficient and emotionally starved citizens, or at least that’s what I had heard before I moved here.

I arrived in New York almost 4 years ago and immediately found these preconceptions to be mostly untrue, with an exception of the hyper-efficiency. The city forces you to interact, albeit most often very briefly, with thousands of fellow New Yorkers on a daily basis – on the trains, sidewalks, buses, and bike paths that keep the city humming with activity year-round. I have used public transportation ever since arriving in New York to work as a staff photographer for Reuters. This most often means taking the infamous New York City subway.

A couple embraces as a subway train arrives in the station in New York May 24, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

This subterranean method of transportation probably forces the most intimacy with total strangers of any in modern society. A morning rush hour commute has you standing fully pressed up against half a dozen people. Hundreds of commuters per subway car struggle not to notice each other and keep their ‘game face’ of indifference and impatience on. It is in this most public of settings that I notice some people feeling no shame or embarrassment in kissing, snuggling, holding hands, fighting, or hugging in full view of dozens of strangers. This unabashed intimacy with a loved one within the public setting of a subway car seemed crazy. But it immediately struck me as something interesting to photograph.