As I whiled away my time in this limbo, I have come to know this photograph rather well. Shot from inside an apparently empty Paris cafe, the darkness of the interior contrasts with the brightness of the summer day outside. There is only one person visible in the image and they are caught, hanging mid stride in the air, as they run across a wide roadway. While a few cars and one street car can be seen in the photo, it is otherwise a quiet, static photo.
I don't know whether it is my innate love of Parisian cafes, the dynamic range captured in this image, the sense of depth, or the feeling of a moment caught in time, but I have always enjoyed looking at this image. I imaged that it may have been shot in the 70's as the pedestrian's pants look like they may be bell bottoms, but there wasn't much else I could derive from the unnamed image in the department store.
Fast forward a great many years until today, sitting with my old friend the Parisian cafe image, I decided to photograph it with my iPone and then mail it on to my main email program at home This may sound like I was pirating the image for my own use, but actually, I wanted to run a program called TinEye that I have recently used as a reverse image search tool. You point TinEye at an image on the Internet or on your computer and it will find other examples of the image on the Internet. I use it to determine who is using my stock images as I really have no other way of finding examples of my photos being used on web sites.
When I loaded the photo from the department store into TinEye, it quickly showed me a number of other instances of the image appearing on the Internet and I learned that it was called "Le Cafe de Flore tote le matin" or "Cafe de Flore, Early Morning", shot by Jeanloup Sieff in 1975. The search also produced references to a book sold by Amazon called "Paris Mon Amour" with Sieff's image on the font cover. For less than $14.00 this book is a marvellous collection of Parisian images taken by photographers from the late 19th century onward. Sieff, who passed away in September 2000, was a fashion photographer who was well known for his work with such magazines as Harper's Bazaar, Vogue and Glamour.
My old friend the department store photo now had a pedigree and just for the heck of it, I decided to see if the Cafe de Flore still existed. I fired up Google Maps and entered the name of the cafe and sure enough, on the ground floor of the Hotel Jardin de Paris, on the corner of Boulevard Saint-Germain and Rue Saint-Benoit, sits the Cafe de Flore still in operation today!
Now of course, I had to see if there was a street view from the cafe to try and stand where Jeanloup did when he took the image and indeed I could "stand" on the street just outside the cafe. While some of the businesses have changed, the newspaper kiosk is still across the street from the cafe and the surrounding buildings are still the same. The main difference I think is the amount of traffic on Boulevard Saint-Germain. Today rather than hovering above the street as the pedestrian in the photo did, you would have to fly across if you wanted to avoid the passing traffic!
I am amazed how technologies now can come together to help solve these visual mysteries and I am also pleased that now, as I sit beside my old friend, I better understand exactly where this image was taken and by whom.