January 20, 2016

11 photos of Paris as a bleak dystopian city

Words by Mags Ocampo

A little known fact about the city of lights and of love: it can be one of the loneliest places on the planet.

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Les Orgues de Flandre, 19e arrondissement Paris, 2014. (Laurent Kronental)

In a photo series entitled “Souvenir d’un Futur” (Memory of a Future), photographer Laurent Kronental presents a lesser known side of Paris. Focusing on high-rise public housing projects in and around the city that are slated for demolition, Kronental’s images look like a believably near dystopian future. The buildings, collectively called the grands ensembles, were built after World War II for the sake of migrants and immigrants seeking to build lives in Paris.


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Joseph, 88, Les Espaces d’Abraxas, Noisy-le-Grand, 2014. (Laurent Kronental)

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Josette, 90, Vision 80, Esplanade de La Défense, 2013. (Laurent Kronental)

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José, 89, Les Damiers, Courbevoie, 2012. (Laurent Kronental)

Aiding in creating this vision are some of the first inhabitants of the projects — the senior citizens that stand in quite a few of Kronental’s photographs. Their expressions vary from vaguely forlorn to defiantly resilient. However, one thing remains the same: they are all alone.


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Joseph, 88, Les Espaces d’Abraxas, Noisy-le-Grand, 2014. (Laurent Kronental)

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Le Pavé Neuf, Noisy-le-Grand, 2015. (Laurent Kronental)

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Denise, 81 ans, Cité du Parc et cité Maurice-Thorez, Ivry-sur-Seine, 2015. (Laurent Kronental)

The project took a span of four years to complete. Kronental’s camera of choice, a 4-by-5 analog camera, really helped set the tone for the images. The slight grain and softened colors make the photographs all the more poetic, nostalgic, and melancholic.

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Jacques, 82, Le Viaduc et les Arcades du Lac, Montigny-le-Bretonneux, 2015. (Laurent Kronental)

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Les Tours Aillaud, Cité Pablo Picasso, Nanterre, 2014. (Laurent Kronental)

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Les Espaces d’Abraxas, Noisy-le-Grand, 2014. (Laurent Kronental)

“There is actually a strength in these people. There are those melancholy glances but at the same time these solid postures. The people I photographed were far from being sad and they were still valiant despite, sometimes, a faraway look,” he said via e-mail to The Washington Post.

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Jean, 89, Puteaux-La Défense, 2011. (Laurent Kronental)

Kronental’s Souvenir d’un Futur is currently being exhibited at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. It is scheduled to close on February 7, 2016.

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