Since 2010 Thomas Boivin has been making beautiful, contemplative black and white photographs of his Parisian neighborhood and the people who live there.
Belleville is a place that is both emblematic of the popular notions of Paris and constantly changing. Set in the eastern part of Paris, it is a multicultural area of the city that attracts artists and those new to France.
“I started to photograph its streets and people as soon as I moved there, and kept photographing for years. Photographing people, above all, was what I found meaningful. Although the photographs hardly depict the city, I find they convey the sensation that I had, walking the streets of Belleville: A mixture of beauty and decay, joyful moments and sadness, the warm feeling of light, and the bittersweet sensation that one can experience walking around all day, searching for a stranger’s eyes..” – Thomas Boivin
Thomas Boivin’s photographs of Belleville, Paris show the city in use – organic, messy, disordered. They intentionally lack the stereotypical markers of Hausmann’s planned vision for the city but are still beautiful, romantic even.
Belleville reflects the passing of time, the seasons, the movement of the eye from ground to tree to fence to person. Boivin remains in public spaces throughout, keeping to the paths and documenting the boundaries – fences, pavements, curtained shop windows we cannot see into. He captures private moments in public spaces, his subjects know he is there, they are complicit and comfortable but there are still barriers. The collected images dance a fine line, close enough to feel soulful whilst avoiding intrusion.
Place de la République is still a work in progress, shown publicly for the first time at A Foundation. In contrast to Belleville, these portraits of Parisian youth are taken from a fixed position, Boivin returning again and again to the same square, a short distance from his home, with a tripod-mounted camera. As in Belleville, his subjects are clearly willing ‘sitters’. And as a group, these works emphasize the exchange between subject and artist and the profundity of acknowledging a stranger’s existence by asking to take their portrait.
Both projects hold Paris’ deep soaked nostalgia and melancholy. Rather, by rooting his practice within his own neighborhood, Thomas Boivin’s images express curiosity for his immediate surroundings, a desire for a form of intimacy in public spaces, and, above all, a concern for others.
Belleville is an exhibition co-produced by Fondation A and the Maison de la Photographie Robert Doisneau (a facility of the Grand-Orly Seine Bièvre factory) curated by Tristan Lund. The exhibition catalog is published by Stanley/Barker.
About the Author
Born in 1983, graduated from the Ecole Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs de Strasbourg, Thomas Boivin lives and works in Paris.
His work is notably found in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, in the Neuflize OBC collection, The Bachelot Collection, the Fondation A Stichting and the art fund Fond d’Art Contemporain – Paris Collection.
Thomas Boivin: Belleville
from April 23th to June 28th, 2022
Fondation A Stichting – Brussels