Walking Paris Streets With Eugene Atget: Inspired Stories About the Ragpicker, Lampshade Vendor, and Other Characters and Places of Old France
stories by Greg Bogaerts
Walking Paris Streets With Eugene Atget: Inspired Stories About the Ragpicker, Lampshade Vendor, and Other Characters and Places of Old France is a collection of sixteen stories inspired by photographs of early twentieth-century photographer Eugene Atget, often regarded as the first “street photographer.” These masterfully-written stories bring the characters in Atget’s photographs to life as they confront and suffer through the social and political changes that led to modern France. Some characters are endearing, some are despicable; a few characters rouse a good chuckle and others prompt feelings of grief and sadness. All of the characters and their stories are unforgettable, all securely tethered to the places, history, and mythos of Old France.
192 pages; 17 illustrations
Greg Bogaertswas born in Newcastle, Australia and has lived there for more than fifty years. In addition to being a writer, he has been a schoolteacher, a solicitor, a laborer with BHP (an Australian-based multinational mining company), and a taxi driver. His stories, many of them generated from his working life experiences and centered upon Newcastle and Novocastrians, have been published in journals, newspapers, and anthologies in Australia and the United States. He has had one novel published; Black Diamonds and Dust (The Vulgar Press, 2005) tells the tragic and important story of coal-mining in Newcastle in the 1880s and 1890s.
Bogaerts attended the University of Newcastle where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree, a Diploma of Education, and a Master of Educational Studies degree. He obtained a Bachelor of Legal Studies degree from Macquarie University. He was the first and only member of his family to go to university, something that began the alienation from his immediate family.
Bogaerts’ writing took a new turn when he began a series of short stories based on the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh and the Australian painters William Dobell and Russell Drysdale. He developed the Van Gogh stories into five novellas and eventually a novel, Montmartre, using Van Gogh’s paintings of the top of the butte as the main source of inspiration for the book. The stories based on Eugène Atget’s photographs of Paris represent the fulfilment of a new type of writing for Bogaerts. He is at present working on a series of short stories based on the paintings of American artist Leslie Anderson and a novel, The Chosen, based on his experiences living in Cooranbong, Australia.
Greg Bogaerts is married to Jill and he has a cat named Whisper.
"Walking Paris Streets—hybrid in its juxtaposition of photography, expository background, and fiction—shows us not only what Atget saw in the photos but what the people in them might have seen, felt, hoped. Bogaerts is an empathetic miniaturist whose insight into art is matched only by his caring about people and their situations amidst modern life."
"Walking the streets of Paris, Greg Bogaerts follows the trail of images left behind by the Parisian photographer, Eugène Atget. Carrying a large view camera and glass plates, Atget paused on obscure streets and peered into obscure alleys in search of a Paris accidentally spared by modern urbanism and caught the people left behind by time, freezing them in his frame. The literary imagination of Bogaerts was piqued by the stillness of these iconic pictures and, in a series, of short stories, recovers lost biographies. Like André Breton in Nadja who asks the question “Who am I” and answers that I am “whom I haunt,” Bogaerts asks, “Who were you?” and we are haunted by his replies. Atget was the photographic Proust of a vanishing Paris, capturing the remaining fragments left behind from a temps perdu. The “author-producer” seldom photographed the inhabitants of Old Paris but those caught in Atget’s dead-pan lens during the early twentieth century were an endangered species, the working class people who signified the passage from one century to another. Most of the old-fashioned occupations or the petites métiers were soon to be extinct.
"For those who have gazed upon Atget’s haunted images of the solitary and the lonely and have wondered about their arrested lives, writer Greg Bogaerts brings Atget’s denizens of the streets to flickering life. The short stories, petites vignettes, give each nameless character a fully realized moment as if a ghost had materialized. Some are given names and the latent image of their existence rises from Atget’s glass plate, flickers into view and then we turn the page of the photo album, compelled to read the next evocation brilliantly imagined by Bogaerts. Like Atget, the author is the consummate flâneur, the observer who wanders the streets in search of that which has been lost. With each character, each street view, a story comes into focus as Bogaerts creates a fascinating universe that parallels Atget who passed this way a hundred years ago."
"Bogaerts has assembled an intriguing collection of Atget’s more memorable street portraits and animated them. He has put them in motion, revealed their weakness and reveled in their triumphs, magnifying Atget’s images first with history followed by the poignant story behind the vanishing essence of Paris streets at the turn of the twentieth century. Eugène Atget considered his photographs documents, and while they stand on their own as such, Bogaerts gives us that extra bit of humanity behind the lampshade vendor, market porter and rag picker we yearn for when we look at them."
"This is a wonderful book about an artist who should be more well known in Britain than he actually is. It combines biographical information about Eugene with critiques of his art really well. A brilliant book that I can't wait to recommend on the shelves at work."
"A masterful work by author Greg Bogaerts utilizing the intriguing photographs of famous turn of the century Parisian photographer, Eugène Atget. Bogaerts creates 16 beautifully unique "petit vignettes" based on each photograph, telling a story from elements within the pictures. Who were these people? What kind of lives did they have? What does each photo share about their dreams, their hopes? This books shares the possibilities with such realism that any reader will be intrigued by the tales. These are realistic and reflect what life was like during the time each photo was taken. Those who love Paris and its history — understanding that it was not all magical lights and glamour — will certainly add this to their collection."
"For those unfamiliar with Atget, he spent 30 years as a documentary photographer capturing images of "Old Paris," providing visual references of the forgotten and the often nameless street vendors, prostitutes, ragpickers and small tradesmen who frequented the side streets and back alleyways in the center of the city. From 1897 to 1927 he photographed people, architecture, and landscapes along the Seine; his photographs show parts of the city that are now no longer after the war and various revitalization projects. A full biography and several additional images can be found at Atget Photography, while images can be seen at the Getty Museum, MoMa, and the National Gallery to name a few.
In this collection, Greg Bogaerts has taken sixteen photos and used them as inspiration to create these stories. Each story varies in length, with imagined conversations, providing background and personality to the figures within the photos.
Beautifully imagined and written, each of these vignettes brings the image into a context in unique ways, using conversation, memory, and physical appearance to bring the figures to life. My favorite of the stories was [about] Pierre, the Market Porter; both his image and the story breathe life into Pierre—his fears, imaginings, and worries are there for all to see. Choosing a favorite was a difficult task. Each story brings a sense of the city and the time while delving into the photos. For anyone who has ever stared at old photographic images and wondered just who was that person, or what were they thinking, this is a wonderful collection with answers and options to amuse and enjoy.
(I received an eBook copy from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review. All conclusions are my own responsibility.)"
"Paris is a natural for photographers and storytellers. Walking Paris Streets combines the two. With each black and white photo by Eugene Atget, who obsessively photographed the comings and goings of Parisians all his life, there is a page or two of explanations of the trades, traditions, background and history—to set up the stories to come. Greg Bogaerts invents a backstory about the people in the photos, their homes, their families, their lives, their dreams, their nightmares.
It is of course a much simpler time, when the hoi polloi didn't have to stress over facebook timelines, structured playdates for their children, excessive bank and mobile charges, the value added tax, or the calories in a big mac. Their concerns were cadging a few francs and sous from their fellow Parisians, and possibly from a free-spending tourist if they could make themselves attractively relevant. It was more about making it to the end of the day than anything else.
The stories are far too real; they are painful. Seamy would be kind. This is not your mother's coffee table book. The characters have real needs, real histories, real fears and real longings. Their conversations and their jokes and their daydreams have triple x tendencies.
As the stories mount they grow darker, and the same characters begin to reappear and connect. They all seem to come from the same neighborhood of Rue Lepic and Boulevard Clichy in Montmartre. The book changes focus, from Atget's photos to Bogaerts' narration. Paris becomes a mere backdrop for the human soap opera within.
It evolves into a tug of war between the obsessive love of all things Paris as photographed by Atget and the horrid reality of daily life as chronicled by Bogaerts. And the conflict does not get resolved. It's Paris, warts and all."
"Montmartre is such a destination for tourists these days, who would dream of the depravity and desperation that have built up this particular section of Paris. These tales of everyday Frenchmen, seemingly left out of the Belle Epoch are fantastic. You cannot avert your eyes, for in these stories lie the bones of what we try to pretend does not exist behind the gilded facade of a city.
This is one of those books that you only suggest to a serious reader who is looking to explore the bones that underlie stories and flesh them out. This will not be a Sunday afternoon on the chaise kind of read but a brace yourself for impact. Using real people as the basis makes these stories as visceral as can be and worth every uncomfortable moment, no excuses.
As a Frenchman myself, I feel like I now have a better understanding of Paris and her people. Shades of Atget's captured moments still linger in her streets, and the City of Lights would not exist without those same said shadows."
"Eugene Atget was a documentary photographer of Old France and
spent 30 years, from 1897 to 1927, photographing scenes and the people of
Paris and the area of the Seine. He did not choose the famous or wealthy.
Instead he chose the people of the street: tradesmen, prostitutes,
basket makers, ragpickers, etc.
To complement these photos, Bogaerts has created stories imagining
incidents in the lives of the people in 16 of these photos. We see
in their daily existence on the street, in their rooms, with their
or friends, customers. Many of these stories leave a lingering sadness
because of the poverty, illness, classism and sexism of the day. The
stories are well written but, for me, were variably entertaining because
the emotional element and occasional violence. The author also provides a
brief historical essay regarding the subject of each photo, prior to the
story, i.e. the history of basket making in France, or the use of lampshades prior to the coming of electricity, or political uprisings in
I believe my favorite story is "Pont Neuf" for the emotional tale it tells that varies from many of the others."
Market Porter, 1899-1900.
Lampshade Vendor, rue Lepic, 1901.
Basket Maker, Porte d’Ivry, 1912.
Le 28 rue Broca, 1919-1920.
Secondhand Book Dealer, place de la Bastille, 1910-2911.
Chiffonier (Ragpicker), 1899 - 1901.
Zoologist’s Shop, 1926-1927.
Luggage Store, rue Dupetit Thouars, 1910-1911.
The Pont Neuf, 1923.
Three Prostitutes, rue Asselin, 1924-25.
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