Mohamed Bourouisssa Périphérique

A photographic portrait of contemporary Paris

Paris is going through a period of rapid change and expansion. We talk to the photographers who are documenting this shift, who aim to show a vision of the city that reaches beyond its romanticised image

When Netflix released the TV show Emily in Paris in 2020, it was immediately panned for its stereotypical view of France and the French capital. The lead character is an American who teaches her rude, lazy colleagues the value of hard work; Paris is a glamorous dreamscape in which nearly everyone is white. “Paris is not just about the Louvre, Saint Germain and the Tuileries gardens,” Parisian Alexandra Milhat told NBC News, in a story explaining the furore. “Paris has very diverse neighbourhoods with different cultures.”

This is a light-hearted example but it taps into real concerns about Paris and its depiction in contemporary culture. In the last couple of years a slew of photography projects have been published and exhibited on the city, many by image-makers based in Paris and all attempting to dig a little deeper.

Thomas Boivin’s Belleville (2022) is a look at a traditionally working-class neighbourhood in north-eastern Paris, for example, while Loic Seguin’s Half-Light (2020) is a hard-hitting series of portraits from the same district. Clarisse Hahn’s Les Princes de la Rue [The Princes of the Street] was shot in working-class, multicultural Barbes-Rochechouart and exhibited at the Rencontres d’Arles photography festival in 2021; Myr Muratet’s Paris Nord (2021) includes images of impoverished individuals living around the Gare du Nord train station and beyond the Périphérique, the ring road around central Paris.

Thomas Boivin Belleville 7
Top: From Périphérique by Mohamed Bourouissa, published by Loose Joints; © Mohamed Bourouisssa; Above: From Belleville by Thomas Boivin, published by Stanley Barker; © Thomas Boivin
Thomas Boivin Belleville 5
From Belleville by Thomas Boivin, published by Stanley Barker; © Thomas Boivin
Loic Seguin
From Half-Light by Loic Seguin, published by Void; © Loic Seguin