Paris of postcard-perfect pictures; Paris too of decaying walls, peeling paint and crumbling buildings. There is a certain beauty in decay. It seems to be telling a story of countless lives that have passed through the city’s walls. We recently came across a beautiful photo project by a lovely Parisian lady, Anne-Laure, who seeks out textures, marks, aberrations and flaws on Parisian walls and compiles her images on her Instagram.
Below, she speaks about her Instagram project documenting the small details on the walls of Paris, what it means to her, her inspirations and other little discoveries in Paris.
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UM: Tell us a little about yourself.
Anne-Laure: I promote French higher education institutions among international students. My work gives me the opportunity to meet different people. I really like to work in this kind of multicultural environment. It comes very naturally to me too, as my father is from the Netherlands and my mother is French.
UM: What inspired you to document the little details on Parisian walls?
Anne-Laure: It happened almost by accident in September, last year. Earlier, I would take photographs during my travels. When travelling, I was moved by the textures and the colours of soil. In Paris, I would take pictures during my walks – I love to go for walks in Paris! I always felt the need to touch, to feel, to create. That’s why I started gardening because I felt that with all the new technologies around us, we don’t touch or feel anything anymore. I also spent a lot of time in museums surrounded by artworks, but I never felt the need to express my inner voice.
Recently, I started observing that there are tiny details and marks on the walls in Paris which are beautiful. It’s quite similar to when you meet a new person: underneath there is always a certain vulnerability, a fragility in each one of us. For me, the fissures and the flaws on these walls are the same. You need to take your time and look for these vulnerabilities. It was this process of observing and finding these marks of time that attracted me to my project.
UM: You said that you started your project in September. Tell us more about how it all started?
Anne-Laure: One afternoon in Paris, I was sitting on a bench and reading a book, when I touched the bench’s material. When I really observed this part of the bench, I thought it looked like a painting of the sea. Since then, it has become a bit of an obsession to look for the traces of time on the walls and record them in my photographs. Earlier, I needed the art of others to feel good inside, but now I feel content expressing myself through my own photographs.
UM: What inspires you to photograph a part of a wall?
Anne-Laure: The walls are a mirror to my soul. There are times when I am thinking of vibrant colours and I only notice the vibrant parts of the wall. Sometimes I am thinking of pastels, and I only notice the pastels around me. My photographs reflect how I feel at that moment.
UM: Who are some of the artists that you admire?
Anne-Laure: Natural materials are a source of positive vibrations for me. That’s why I really like sculpture and colour. For instance, Camille Claudel – she is not as well-known as Rodin, but her work touches me as it is soft, feminine, harmonious. I also feel many emotions with Carl Andre’s minimalistic installations of natural materials.
I also like Rothko, I feel he succeeded at showing the true soul of colour. Despite all the apparent simplicity, there is something very complex and very powerful in his work. I also like Turner, for his skies and how he uses the colours.
Then, Louise Bourgeois for her ability to conceptualise her truth and to make it universal. These are my big inspirations, but there are many others: Henri Matisse, Pierre Soulages… And as Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, creation enables me to know myself better.
UM: Are there are any places in Paris that are particularly important to you?
Anne-Laure: When you travel, you need ‘un ancrage’, an anchor. In Paris, there are two places that are very important to me. My home, a poetic area in Montmartre, a quiet red castle with a wonderful garden, it’s like being in the nature in the middle of Paris. It is my refuge where I revitalise myself. And in the neighbourhood, I have my favourite café where I go every morning or when I organise a get-together.
My second favourite place is Place Louis Aragon located at the tip of Ile Saint-Louis. I love to watch the Seine flow from here. The sign has this verse: “Connaissez-vous l’île / Au cœur de la ville / Où tout est tranquille / Éternellement.”
Walls are another kind of “ancrage” for me. They allow me to express what I have inside. My sculpture becomes reality. I like touching them like they touch me. There is a French expression “A fleur de peau” which means ‘very sensitive’. As for me, I could say that I am “A fleur de mur“.
To see more of Anne-Laure’s beautiful images of Parisian walls, follow her on Instagram.