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Bewogen straten

de omgang van het stadsbestuur van Parijs met de foto's van Parijse straten en boulevards van Charles Marville (1813-1879) tussen 1865 en 1910
PhD ceremony:J.F. de Wolf, MA
When:October 19, 2022
Start:11:00
Supervisor:A.S. (Ann-Sophie) Lehmann, Prof Dr
Co-supervisor:dr. R. Esner
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Arts

While the Parisian city council was demolishing the narrow streets in order to modernize the city in the mid-nineteenth century, photographer Charles Marville (1813-1879) was commissioned to photograph these streets before their demolition. Art historian Joke de Wolf analyzes how between 1865 and 1910 the Parisian city council, photo specialists, architects and historians have used and described Marville’s photos.

Although the original commission was lost, we know that between 1865 and 1868 Marville took about 425 photographs: contact prints from glass negatives measuring 30 by 40 centimeters and depicting narrow, seemingly empty streets. Only people who remained unmoved are visible. The first set of prints was destroyed in the fire at the Hôtel de Ville in 1871. Marville had preserved the negatives, and as such, the city council was able to order reprints. These photos were exhibited at the World Exhibition of 1878 in Paris, and from 1907 onwards they were on show in the historical library and in international exhibitions and publications.

In the history of photography, these photos have often been described as an expression of the photographer's melancholy, or because the city council wanted to  highlight progress with before-and-after photos. With the help of many contemporary archival, visual and documentary sources, this research demonstrates how the meaning of these photos changed. Initially they were used by the cartography department, and by 1878 there was no question of a nostalgic or triumphant underlying presentation. This changed around 1900, when the old Paris, 'vieux Paris', became an attraction at the world exhibition and eventually in the rest of the world