Paris at Easter

Dawn, and we were up early to get to Notre Dame cathedral. Security was fairly tight, with bag searches before entering the cathedral square. Being early, we were able to get through quickly. With about an hour to go before the Gregorian mass, we perambulated slowly around the interior while the early mass was on.

Time to light a couple of candles for those we have left behind, before finding a seat.

The enormous cathedral filled quickly with probably about 2000 people. It was a little disturbing to see the ‘beware of pickpockets’ signs – but yes even inside the cathedral, and even during mass there are those who seek to take advantage of a crowd.

The music and ceremony were deeply moving. We were immersed in divine singing and bathed in the light from the stained glass windows. Everywhere wisps of incense caught the light creating shafts of colour.

On a previous stay we rented an apartment in the Marais district on the street that was built to house the workers and artisans who created the stained glass back in the C12th-C13th.

Musée Delacroix is just around the corner, so we headed up to check it out. He was a very expressive painter and a leader in the French Romantic movement. His loose brushwork and vibrant use of colour pre-figured the impressionists that came a generation later. It is a small apartment with adjoining studio and garden, and well worth an hour or so. It was interesting to see how he set up a scene with people dressed in exotic Moroccan dress and invited his fellow painters over to tackle the scene in paint. There are photos too of these scenes. To see artists like this use the latest in technology to enhance their art was well worthwhile.

When photography came along, there were real questions about the role of painters now that accurate images could be captured by camera in minutes, rather than captured over days and even months in the case of oils. From this tension -known as the ‘crisis of representation’ – came a rethinking of the role of art to capture the emotional and inner psychological reality, rather than just painting a scene or portrait. Painting and drawing is still a way of looking at and perceiving the world.

We walked up to the Tuileries gardens in the afternoon to sketch the Musée du Louvre. As the weather closed in we called it quits with the under-drawing done, to be inked later and toned in with aquarelle graphite.

It was time for dinner in the Latin quarter once again.

Drawing on another way to see

When travelling, slow down and take time to look – with the intensity of an artist!

London Big Ben

London Big Ben

The camera can capture what is in front of you, but it takes your intervention to capture how you feel about it. And that is where post-processing comes in. Whether it is just putting on a filter in instagram, or doing more advanced processing in photoshop or lightroom, your processing will reflect how you feel about a place. But how will you know how you feel, if you don’t stop for a moment and take time to form an opinion?

One way to learn how to see in a new way is to consider how the scene would look as a drawing. Look at the relationship between objects, and consider the shape formed by the spaces between them. Artists call these ‘negative shapes’. By taking the time to look at a scene as a drawing, you will see far more than if you had just lifted the camera and pressed the shutter button.

St Martin in the Fields rendered as a drawing

St Martin in the Fields

Consider this view of St Martin in the Fields in London. Stripped of colour and reduced to a few tones, its relationship to the landscape becomes more apparent. The distraction of the red buses and colourful tourists fades, and the classical styled church asserts its sense of permanence and history.

It is worth spending time in galleries to get a sense of composition – the concepts behind composition in art apply equally to photography – and especially to travel photography.  Use drawing techniques to appreciate the sense of design around you – wherever you are, someone designed that building, or that streetscape.

Take a small sketchbook and try to sketch the scene in front of you – then photograph it, and you will find that you have made a memorable image, taking in the subtleties that will live with you long after your trip has finished.


London - the Strand rendered as a drawing

London – the Strand