IN PICTURES: François Darmigny’s “Confined Paris”

Les Champs-Élysées débarrassés des voitures. © FRANCÇOIS DARMIGNY

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Paris got rid of its cars, tourists and some of its inhabitants… A unique and enchanting situation photographed by François Darmigny.

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Tuesday 17 March 2020: the French government, faced with an unprecedented health crisis, introduces general containment for the first time in its history.

Monday 23 March 2020 – 7:15 am: 6th day of confinement – 3rd day of spring.

A blue sky of exemplary purity. I usually cross the Bois de Boulogne, which is already so crowded at this hour. Only the garbage cans are still on the sidewalk. A few joggers, rebels of the first hour, refuse to change their morning habits. The entrance to the Porte Maillot station pouts. Its facelift is pending…

As the streets go by, Paris sleeps in; like a long-awaited rest, a forced vacation. I cross all the districts in the same litany. The Grande-Armée, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs-Élysées, the quays… For the past few days, the temperature has been rising. Not just ours, but this season’s, which, thumbing its nose, is picking up again. While the whole of France is afraid of suffocating because of a virus that has spread from so far away, spring sets its rules: no more pollution, absolute calm, trees in bloom, the sweetness of a morning after the cold sweats of the last few weeks. What a strange feeling… Alone in this liberated Paris there is something missing on the soundtrack.

L’esplanade du Trocadéro et la tour Eiffel. © Francois DARMIGNY

While some have lost their taste and smell, Boulevard Saint-Germain is looking for its nerds, lifelong friends. Its sidewalks are bored with café terraces, the party-goers who no longer leave Castel’s, Léon has lost sight of Brussels, the metro, its users, and me, my landmarks.

Alone, I am alone, me, the former war reporter, me, the photographer of the stars. An immersion in a war of a kind unknown. A star who has become enemy number one. Invisible. Everywhere and nowhere at once. This virus is all around me.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020 – 10:00 a.m.: Day 14 of containment – 11th day of spring.

The Moulin Rouge is depressed. No more dancers, no more French cancan, no more drummers, no more customers. The Place du Tertre misses its painters, the Pont des Arts, its lovers.

I finally come across humans: policemen serving as barriers, without any protection against masked and gloved inhabitants. What abnegation! The municipal employees continue to sweep and disinfect the streets. The tramps are still there, because for them the confinement sadly does not exist…

One inspection of my press card later, and I continue my Parisian jaunt, dumbfounded by this atmosphere worthy of an American TV show.

Aucun véhicule ne vient tourner sur la place de la Concorde. © FRANÇOIS DARMIGNY
Le pont des Invalides et le Grand Palais © FRANÇOIS DARMIGNY

What a splendid decor, this Paris 2020. This Paris that will emerge even stronger from this terrible ordeal. This Paris where the noises of joie de vivre will soon resound. This Paris of freedom, meeting, and exchange, that the whole world envies us.

Today anaesthetized, but not asleep, I dare to believe that this Paris will rise again.

For more than ten days I have been walking around, with the case as my only companion. Through my lens the Louvre breathes, the Tuileries live again.

Very few cars, bikes, or scooters. As if rid of all its engines, Paris comes out of the ICU and Notre-Dame, its lung already atrophied, prays…

The highway, usually jerky due to the congestion of her bronchial tubes, finally breathes, the roads on the river bank are oxygenated, and filled with sunlight.

8 p.m.: the applause finally resounds like a thank you, like a hope. To all those who work tirelessly to make today’s polluted air the purity of tomorrow.

This article was first published on Le Point and is published here in partnership. See the original article for the rest of the photo collection.

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