The limits (practical, historical, and modern) on Parisian architecture make every street so dense with detail that glancing down one while passing left me moving on with a longing to explore.
I took eight years of French classes as a middle- and high-school student, and those courses’ textbooks inevitably had charming pictures of Parisian locales throughout. In trying to cover a wide range of French experiences, those books tended to show “everyday” life alongside the expected pictures of the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, and so I came to associate all of these images with a sort of “imaginary,” idealized Paris.
Imagine my surprise when I arrived in France and found that it looks exactly like my books.
The homogeneity of Parisian streets seemed a little bit anomalous to me until I visited the Catacombs and came to realize that much of the stone making up the city had been quarried from directly beneath it. The cave-ins and collapses that this eventually produced demanded the project of stabilizing these artificial caverns and ultimately made room for the human remains that now occupy them.
Capturing pictures of the everyday and mundane details of living in a place as odd as Berkeley’s Normandy Village means that I can look back to the little details. This maroon fire escape served as the back door to our apartment, but also easy access to the shared laundry room—and thus a route I frequently traversed, trying to find a time when the machines were free.
Down the tiny alleys, side streets, and driveways of Berkeley are all kinds of odd old garages. My favorite details of these structures usually come down to scale; the driveway tracks and garage measurements were clearly built to be just large enough for the cars of the period. As American vehicles have grown larger, they now appear comically mismatched with anything but a vintage car in the scene.