Esplanade, Tuileries Gardens

Three schoolboys play soccer on the Esplanade near the Louvre.

Esplanade, Tuileries, Paris 2009, looking east toward the Marsan Pavilion and the Louvre

© Leslie Hossack

Three schoolboys are playing soccer on the Esplanade des Feuillants beside the elevated Terrasse des Feuillants. These avenues were laid out by André Le Nôtre when he was asked to redesign the Tuileries in 1664.

Beyond the boys is a sculpture by Gustave Michel entitled Monument to Jules Ferry (1910). (Please click on the image to see more details.) Ferry was a politician who sponsored the modernization of the French education system in the late 19th century.

The large building in the background is the Marsan Pavilion located on the north side of the Louvre. This pavilion was rebuilt in 1871 to match the Flore Pavilion on the south side.

Waldeck-Rousseau Monument, Tuileries Gardens

The Tuileries is the largest and oldest garden in Paris.

Waldeck-Rousseau Monument, Tuileries, Paris 2009, looking east toward the Louvre

© Leslie Hossack

The Tuileries, the first public garden in Paris, is the city’s largest and oldest garden, initially established in 1563. The gardens were completely redesigned in 1664 by André Le Nôtre; the basic structure of the formal French garden that he laid out still remains in place today, despite many renovations and updates over the years. What a wonderful example of urban change and continuity.

Located in the 1er arrondissement in the very heart of Paris, the gardens provide a welcome contrast to the crowded sidewalks, congested roadways, and polluted atmosphere of central Paris. Each time I entered the Tuileries with camera in hand, I had the sense that if I just stood still long enough, I could actually hear the silence. And that is what I attempted to photograph: the silence. Even the boys playing soccer on the Esplanade seemed to be part of a silent movie in this splendid setting.

Before departing for Paris, I studied old photographs of the city. During the last 100 years, the Tuileries Gardens have been photographed by many well-known photographers, including: Eugène Atget (Jardin des Tuileries, 1907); André Kertész (Jardin des Tuileries, 1928-1930); Brassaï (Banc aux Tuileries, 1930-1932); Robert Doisneau (Amour et Barbelés, Tuileries, 1944); and Henri Cartier-Bresson (Jardin des Tuileries, 1974). When I arrived in Paris in April 2009, it was a challenge to reconcile these representations from the past with today’s reality. As a solution, I have tried to combine a formal approach to composition with a softer modern palette to produce these timeless images of Paris.