Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Guest blogger Janna Singer-Baefsky is a Smith College student, class of 2015, majoring in Art History with a Museums Concentration. She is a Student Assistant in the Cunningham Center for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.
Moyra Davey. Canadian (1958 - ). Untitled from 16 Photographs from Paris, 2009. Folded digital c-print with paper and cellophane tape, postage, and ink. Purchased with the Dorothy C. Miller, class of 1925, Fund. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2010:19-4
When I was eleven, my parents took our family to Paris. The excitement was palpable; other than the occasional trip to Toronto to visit family, I had never flown this far before. I did not know what to expect. Would it be the romanticized world of baguettes, cheese, and art that I had dreamed about or would my imagination let me down? From the moment I stepped off the plane, Paris did not disappoint. She was everything I had dreamed about and more. This was a city alive – everyone was going somewhere, doing something. Paris was the first city I fell in love with. When we boarded the plane to go home, it was pouring rain. It was a sign that Paris was going to miss me as much as I was going to miss her – I promised myself I would go back.
About ten years later, I boarded a plane in Heathrow. Destination: Charles de Gaulle Airport. My best friend from high school was studying in Paris while I was studying in Oxford. It would be a reunion with both my loves.
I began my first day in the Louvre and ended it in the Musée d’Orsay café, sipping a small cup of coffee. When I look at Moyra Davey’sUntitled from 16 Photographs from Paris, I am brought right back to that moment. I can smell the faint mixture of cigarettes and floral perfumes. I can hear the conversations of couples, tourists, and school children. I can taste the rich, bitter, perfectly brewed cup of coffee.
The composition is simple and elegant, much like the city. The cup and spoon are in focus and everything else – the open sugar packet, the table top – are blurred into the background. To me, it is a metaphor for the singular moment of consumption, when all the troubles and stress of the day also fade into the background as one stops to enjoy a simple cup of coffee. This photograph captures what is, perhaps, the most beautiful thing about Paris. It is an environment conducive to pausing, reflecting, and enjoying life’s most basic pleasures.
I now make a habit of enjoying a cup of tea or coffee every day to give myself a necessary moment to pause. It is something I had forgotten to do for many years until I was reminded by an afternoon in a café and an unassuming photograph. I have fallen in and out of love with many cities over the years, but I’ll always have Paris.