Category Archives: Europe

Paris Market 1898

These scenes of a busy Paris market were photographed by Eugène Atget (12 February 1857 – 4 August 1927), a noted early documentary photographer. Though now regarded as one of the pioneers of photography, Atget did not enjoy commercial success or renown during his lifetime. In the years subsequent to his death, Atget fame and recognition grew, based on his body of work which documented the street scenes of Paris at the end of the 19th century.

This period was one of unprecedented prosperity and change as Europe began to modernize under the impetus of new inventions such as electric lighting, motor vehicles and other inventions which moved Paris and the rest of France into the modern era. Realizing that the world was changing forever, Atget set about photographing all aspects of Parisian life in an effort to create a lasting documentary record of what life was like.

The picture below is a fine example of a street scene photographed by Atget. It shows men and women going about their daily lives, in a completely candid and unposed photo.


Paris Street Scene

Note the absence of vehicular traffic except for a couple of horse drawn carriages. Most of the people are walking, some clearly for a leisurely stroll, others appear to be carrying their groceries and other purchases. The world is similar to what we are used to but also different, especially if we look closely. There are no power or telephone cables; there are no visible street lamps so this street would likely have been very dark after sundown. Men wear suits and women wear dresses, as do the boys and girls who are dressed as miniature versions of the adults. There are no name bran clothes, no logos. Everyone is dressed modestly. The men wear hats. The women wear skirts that come to their ankles; no one is dressed provocatively. Even the young women are demure; there is no cleavage or excess skin shown.


If we zoom in and enlarge portions of the picture we can see even more detail about this bygone world.



French Billboard Advertising

The Grand Universal Bazar

The picture above is a close up of the billboard advertising on the side of the main building shown at the center of the square. It reads, in French: “Grand Universal Bazaar – House of L. Demoge. Recommended for its Large Selection and Selling the Best Deals in all of Paris.”

What’s interesting also about this bill board is the flimsy rope ladder that you can see straddling the middle of the advertising – it runs from the top of the roof to the lower level of the building. It’s not clear if this ladder was to service the billboard or just to access the roof. Whatever it’s purpose it loos extremely unstable and dangerous. You can imagine a poorly paid Parisian workman having to climb that for a few sous.





Young Woman With Two Children

Young Woman With Two Children

Above is a close up of one of the groups of people in the street scene. Here a young woman, perhaps the mother or a governess, is struggling to control a couple young children.


Below is another closeup, this time of the people outside of the church. Some women are carrying large baskets, perhaps with pies in them. There are a couple of delivery vehicles, all horse drawn.


Close Up of People Outside the Church

Enlarge Section Showing Street Scene Outside of the Church



Street Level of a Paris Street 1898Above is another close up of the action at street level. We can see men and women talking and laughing. Some walk alone and with noticeable purpose. Others are strolling or killing time. It is a good day, sunny, in a Paris at the height of its prosperity and glory. The Eiffel Tower has been built less than 10 years earlier, and Paris basques in the glow of a golden age.


It was a normal day, a happy day. The people here are all long gone. Many of them would be killed in World War 1, just around the corner. If not for these rare photographs these images of a bygone and golden past would have faded forever.


Pictures of Victorian Era London

Cheapside This is a picture showing the heart of Victorian London as it was in 1890, when the city was the center of a vast colonial empire and the British people enjoyed the confidence and pride of imperial power and increasing prosperity. The long reign of Queen Victoria would soon be coming to an end and with it drastic changes in British society. The horrors of World War 1 were still over 20 years in the future, and for now the men and women in this photograph can go on their business blissfully unaware that the world they know will soon disappear, and we will look back at their Victorian Era, their golden age, as a quaint and repressed period of human history.


The photograph is from a book called . The original caption says that the photograp shows Cheapside, London which the book says is the very heart of the city and that it lives up to its name by being the home of many “cheap shops” were you can find everything on discount, from toothpicks to train locomotives.


The book goes on to say that the street is so busy with vehicles that it sometimes takes pedestrians up to 20 minutes to cross from one side of the street to another. That sounds like a bit of an exaggeration but it is clear from the picture that Victorian carriage traffic was pretty bad.


CHEAPSIDE, London, England.—This street is in the very heart of the “city” and is especially noted for its so-called “cheap shops,” where is offered for sale every variety of articles, from a locomotive to a toothpick. The street is constantly so crowded with vehicles, that pedestrians are often delayed from fifteen to twenty minutes in crossing from one side to the other. It affords much pleasure to stroll along Cheapside and watch the crowds of pedestrians and vehicles pass up and down the avenue. The buildings lining Cheapside have an imposing appearance, and are of uniform architecture.

1 2 3