There’s a new book out from renowned portrait photographer Baudouin called 75 Parisiennes. It captures perfectly the mood of a place, what it means to be a Parisian. 75 Parisiennes is specific, but in its specificity, in it’s “placeness,” it somehow represents every specific place.
When you are of a specific place, your individuality is somehow amplified in much the same way that sampling a song, or otherwise beg, borrow & stealing from what has come before makes the things you appropriate yours and shift the landscape of who you’ll become. We are made of our ingredients, cooked up in the places we’ve inhabited fully. For me, I am made of the American South and Manhattan, Brooklyn and L.A. I am even made of Kenya, a place I tasted for just 3 months, but nonetheless claim as my home.
The older I get, the more I can taste the specificity of my life in my mouth. I carry with me in my suitcase the cadences of my native South. Though I long ago abandoned the religion and southern cooking of my youth, they remain as influences, the former having opened my soul to the life beyond the eyes, the latter having taught me to live with gusto, as if life itself were redolant with the ____. From New York I got my swagger, my sense of at-homeness in even the sketchy places of this world. Los Angeles gifted me with a lightness that I return to again and again, when I am needing to catch my breath. It is a light place, ungrounded and unhampered by deep history. A place of wide open skies and self-invention. As light as air as it can sometimes seen, it is still a specific place, and like all specific places, it vibrates. If you’ve ever been to Paris, you know that it vibrates with specificity too, a specificity captured so beautifully in these photographs.
I love the diversity of these images. These women are black and white, Asian and young and old, but mostly they’re Parisians. Some of them are prim and proper and some are stone cold freaks, but they’re of a tribe and, for the moment at least, pressed beneath the butterfly glass by Badouin’s penetrating lens, their Parisianness is the salient thing about them, the thing that takes these disparate pieces and fashions them into a whole. These Parisians are proof positive that we belong on the basis of oh so many things, but mostly by the animating spirit — that spirit of specificity — that makes a Parisian different from a Texan and an Angeleno different from anyone I’d ever meet back home.
PAULA PURYEAR is a Lawyer, Film & Television writer, HuffPoster and Founder of Revel In It Mag.