Pictures of Seine River bridges frame nighttime views of the French capital in this striking coffee-table collection of photographs.
Zuercher, a businessman and professional photographer, presents black-and-white photos of all 35 of the Seine bridges in Paris. The structures run the gamut of ages and architectural styles, from the Pont Neuf, built in 1607 of masonry, with many barrel-vaulted arches and circular Renaissance bastions projecting from its sides, to the Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir, a footbridge completed in 2006 with undulating, gracefully interwoven convex and concave spans. It also includes the Pont Des Arts of 1804, a spindly iron spiderweb that’s a favorite of couples, who festoon it with commitment locks; the Pont Alexandre III, an elegant 1900 edifice with neo-Baroque statuary and beaux-arts streetlamps; and the undistinguished steel girders of 1974’s Pont de l’Alma. Zuercher supplies brief, sprightly accounts of each bridge’s construction and the history of its site. Many of the bridges are heirs to predecessors that burned or collapsed, with the results made even more tragic by the pre-modern custom of building houses right on top of the spans. Others have been the locations of colorful scenes; the Pont au Change, readers learn, “has also been known as chemin des rois et de la guillotine” because it was both the processional route of royals into Paris and the exit for condemned prisoners, who were taken across it to have their heads lopped off. But the book’s centerpieces are its ravishing photos, which are overexposed to give the scenes a palette of bright but warmly luminous highlights, shading into slate and black backgrounds. Zuercher takes several shots of each bridge, capturing both the long sweeps of the spans and the close-up details of stonework, décor and gargoyles; looming in the backgrounds are Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and other landmarks, all set off to spectacular effect against the riverscape. The end result is an iconic visual record of the heart of Paris.
A superb pictorial evocation of the City of Light, full of dazzling images and intriguing lore.