Matt Perry

Preview image for the Amsterdam B-sides project

Photons in Paris

Last weekend my wonderful wife took me to Paris on the Eurostar.

A mild(ish) fear of flying mentally shrouds the rest of the world in an "event", something I quite consciously consider to be survived.

By contrast, the Eurostar is almost frictionless. It colours thoughts of the world in an openness and accessibility that feels like a taste of the 22nd century.

DSCF3416.jpg Paris, it turns out, is quite beautiful.

DSCF3422.jpg Its sheer age and cleanliness is photogenic in an obvious sense, but doesn't necessarily play to the way I tend to shoot.

I had to eek out geometry, blocks and symmetry wherever I could.

DSCF3423.jpg DSCF3462.jpg The Eiffel Tower is probably one of the most photographed buildings in the world. If I know I'm going to take a photo that's probably been done to death, I still want to take it.

The subject and framing becomes a control group. To be mine, the photo must be technically in order and then given my own style in post. Those are still pleasing parts of the process.

The continuing European heatwave meant that the area was heaving well into the night making a clean shot impossible. Any attempts at leaning into that via super-long exposures lead to an unpleasing mixture of ghosts and blurry people.

It's fair to say I fucked this one, but I enjoyed taking it.

DSCF3469.jpg I am cripplingly uncomfortable taking pictures of people in public.

The thought of turning my lens on someone unsuspecting dredges up the homeopathic remnants, thankfully diluted by adulthood, of how it felt to ask a girl out as an awkward teenager.

Wimping out caused me to miss a shot. This ridiculously photogenic couple (one half, pictured), laughing next to an open subway door, revealing the stark yellow tunnels of a Parisian subway.

Frustrated, I remembered reading that day that some street photographers shoot from the hip. It still felt icky, but I like the composition all the same. It just wasn't mine.

DSCF3474.jpg They fly the EU flag everywhere in Paris. Maybe if we did the same, things would have turned out differently.

DSCF3483.jpg DSCF3487.jpg For this photo, I first found the light and the picture of the bejewelled lady. That was the scene, and I just had to wait for someone to fill it.

Because the Earth has the dogmatic tendency to revolve, I knew the lady's eye would be slowly covered in shadow. This fostered an impatience. The above is a crop, because I was worried that working the area too hard would result in nothing at all. So I found the composition, and stood.

I feel the geometry of it is very much mine, but I wonder about the alternative version. Crouched just to the left of the curb, with the diamond lady looming large over the subject. It certainly would have been braver.

DSCF3508.jpg Sometimes the light isn't in your favour, but you have to take it anyway. These bins were cute enough that I pushed the shadows far beyond plausibility. No regrets.

DSCF3544.jpg Since adjusting my settings for this scene, I must have knocked a dial in my rush to grab the train at the right moment. It is wildly overexposed, bad news in a scene with so much white. I managed to salvage most of it in Lightroom, but it's still clearly cut at the top.

DSCF3568.jpg If you've ever seen a picture of the Moulin Rouge, you've seen this one. But here the clean shot, and the twist in post, make it mine.

DSCF3589.jpg When I took this photo, I was almost ashamed. Earlier in the day I'd discovered Josh K Jack who does the sort of thing I'd like to be doing, but on a totally different level. I like the photo, but these symmetrical compositions are perhaps becoming a crutch.

Next time, new rule: No symmetry.