Rue Awakening

BIBLIOTHEQUE NATIONALE DE FRANCE

LIFE THROUGH A LENS: Over 30 years, Atget meticulously recorded the streets and residents of a Paris threatened by modernization

The year was 1897, and Paris was in peril. Nearly every day, another of its graceful old alleys, passageways, churches, shops, hôtels particuliers, fortifications, fountains and other charmingly decrepit fixtures fell to the wreckers' ball. Napoléon III and his architect Baron Haussmann — with their vision of an imposing, rectilinear city — had launched the orgy of destruction, and the advance of the new Métro system was finishing the job. Soon, it seemed, the Paris of Abelard and Héloïse, Voltaire and Molière, Balzac and Hugo would be a dusty memory, surviving only in literature and paintings.

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