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.