Paris 1981

In August 1981 I travelled to Paris to carry out a five-day assignment to provide library pictures for the Evening Standard. As well as straightforward images of the usual landmarks I also wandered the streets catching what I hoped were typically Parisian scenes of people and places.

As well as pictures of the more obvious central Paris place I also photographed at the Porte de Clignancourt Flea Market which is just outside Paris proper, the other side of the Boulevard Periphérique (Ring Road). Paris has a number of Flea Markets but this is the most famous. It’s official name is Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, but it’s known to everyone as Les Puces (The Fleas).

It’s open on Saturday, Sunday and Monday but the weekend is the busiest and best time. It was a bustling and weirdly wild place with a melange of obviously French scenes contrasted with signage showing a distinctly American sub-culture of jeans and Stetsons.

On the holiday in Spain that preceded and the five days I spent in Paris my only pair of trousers were a pair of bright green cords so many people mistook me for an American. And there were plenty of American tourists, most of whom were friendly and asked me for directions or advice. The trio on the second picture were different. I can no longer remember what they actually said but my contact print caustically notes “Know-all tourists.”

When the Standard did use some of my pictures (providing a trickle of income) they tended to be the buildings and landmarks rather than pictures of people and their interactions so these images have never previously been seen.