Sunday, September 28, 2008

Nadar and the Paris Catacombs

In the research paper for Jim Schaefer's photography class (see below), I wrote about the depiction of hermaphrodites by 19th-century French photographer Gaspard-Félix Tournachon Nadar and contemporary American photographer Joel-Peter Witkin. I first learned of Nadar when seeking out information about the Paris catacombs. In 1861-2, he took a series of 100 photographs of the ossuary, and in doing so was one of the first photographers to use artificial light. (I later learned that he also pioneered aerial photography, taking pictures of Paris from his balloon.)

In 1999, my friend Cris Hastings and I went to Paris, first and foremost to tour the catacombs--a self-guided tour through a mile of galleries that begins and ends with an intimidating spiral staircase. This was the swansong of my walking ability (you can see the cane in the photo of me) and I was thrilled to have seen the catacombs in person (you can also see the smile on my face), even though Cris had to haul me up that last staircase by my belt loops!

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