Old Paris came to Sydney in the form of an artistic collection with over 200 rare and original prints from the founder of documentary photography. In the period of rapid modernization during the Belle Epoque, the French photographer Eugene Atget has captured the images of Old Paris – buildings, small trades, ships, gardens, streets and the river Seine – providing a genuine glimpse into the past of the iconic metropolis.
Although Atget preferred to photograph empty streets and carriages without horses, the exhibition was advertised with one of his very rare images linked to fashion, taken about a corset shop. Interestingly, he has even refused to have his name attached to these photos when they were published, as he considered himself strictly a documentary photographer collecting artistic details of the disappearing Paris.
On the picture below we can see the shopfront of the world’s first department store, which probably makes some of us a bit excited, but not Atget. He is focusing instead on the reflections on the window hiding the lifeless mannequins. His most known and celebrated works are his photographs of the street, with no people as a central subject. Due to the long exposure technique he used, we can only see evaporating silhouettes of pedestrians which gives his pictures a special mysterious atmosphere. I liked it.
The organizers linked the exhibition to free celebrity talks and performances which has attracted a large number of visitors, including me as I actually got hooked by an opportunity to hear the Sydney Morning Herald’s Fashion Editor talking about Paris and fashion. Today, there are lots of fashion weeks all over the world with a number of cities (including Sydney) claiming the title, however Paris is THE fashion capital.
I was extremely pleased as I finally!! got answers to my burning questions nobody seemed to be able to reply so far.. What is the difference between the fashion industry in Europe and Australia + how difficult it is for an Australian designer to become visible in Paris?
I have seen Australian brands appearing during the American fashion weeks, but I did not know so far, why only there. It turns out that New York is pretty commercial, that’s why Australian designers move their focus there. But Milan is about family dynasties and businesses being passed through generations we don’t have here, as Australia is such a young country. Tradition is also an important aspect of the culture in France, this is however not the only problem Australians can’t cope with: Paris is challenging because the competition is massive and the brands have enormous budgets. These budgets allow them to make impossible things! Their quality makes the big difference. The quality of their products, the creativity they can afford to pay for, and the sophisticated high levels of presentation. This makes things happen. Right now, in these moments as well, as the Paris Fashion Week is on!!:)
If you would like to see Atget’s haunted dreamy pictures or take part in the related events, visit the NSW Art Gallery until 4 November.
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