Empty Paris – Covid 19 & Parisian Walks with a Minox 35ML – Angèle Fourteau

April 2021. France was again in a state quarantine due to Covid 19’s third wave. We were restricted to an area of 10km around home plus a night curfew. From my teeny tiny flat, all I wanted was to get outside and go for a long escaping walk…

Fortunately, I live in Paris, and there is a lot of things to see, and neighborhoods to get lost in.

For all those “10km walks” during this quarantine time, I always grabbed my Minox 35ML. I got this camera from my Grand-pa; He gave it to me 3 or 4 years ago, as I was looking for a smaller camera than my usual and heavy SLRs. Well, I’ve been in love with this camera since that day, and I have it with me all the time! Mostly because this micro-camera, smaller than a cigaret pack, is so easy to carry on and so discreet when it comes to take street photographs.

During quarantine time, I would fill it with black and white films so I would be able to develop it quickly at home after my walks.

Top view of the Minox 35ML camera
Top view of the Minox 35ML camera
Front view of the Minox 35ML camera
Front view of the Minox 35ML camera

I usually don’t think to much about my photos before making them, I just shoot what I see, following the mood, the flow, looking at details, or landscapes. The Minox 35ML camera is a true help for those “in the moment” type of photos.

With a quick opening of the front door, I just need to evaluate the distance between me and the subject and then set focus by turning the distance ring and making it correspond to the small red mark. A shot is then taken by pressing the orange button on top. The rest is easily done with the program mode; automatic shutter speed and aperture. I rarely miss a photograph with this camera, and always get good quality rendering. Also, it doesn’t trigger if the front door is closed, so no pocket unwanted pics. Overall, it’s a really versatile, easy to use and such a lovely camera.

Empty Paris

I called this series “Empty Paris” – I’d like to show you some of the results from a roll of Kentmere I shot.

Since first lockdown, March 2020, I enjoy a lot walking in an empty Paris. Alone with my camera, taking pictures of those quiet moments in this city that used to be full of people and noises. I’d go to famous and tourist hot spots that appeared empty and so peaceful during covid lockdown, and I shoot those places to remember that particular time.

One day, I decided to start from Jardin du Luxembourg. I love gardens and all natural places in cities. In Paris, those garden spaces are often full of people. During covid lockdown, there was this calm atmosphere. Not much sound, mostly Parisians walking and enjoying the new spring sun rays.

I set up my camera, and started shooting there.

This garden is a mix between large open areas, with benches and ponds, and lot of trees covered aisles where you’ll find cooler spots. I am never bothered by the changing light and contrast. This camera does the job without trouble. The settings are focus range are large enough to allow me to capture any scene.

View from the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris
 Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris.
Aisle of trees with light shadows
 Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris

I pause a minute on a bench, observing people, then continue my walk through Saint Germain’s neighborhood, then along the Seine next to the Louvres Museum. I love walking there. In the empty docks, I could feel the quietness of the city.

A women looking at a Bouquiniste shop

View of the Seine's dock in paris

A Ladurée shop in Paris

People sat along the Seine doc under a tree

View of the Louvre next to a tree

Few days later, I found myself in Montmartre neighborhood. It is not my favorite place in Paris, just because there is a lot of tourists and it is usually so crowded. But, during quarantine, it became completely empty, and I could look at it with a different perspective. Having this little camera in my pocket allowed me to shoot quickly and quietly.

I strolled in the tiny streets of Montmartre, grabbed typical Parisian views, architectures, as well as closed cafés.

View from a square with trees

Stairs in Paris with a building

a view of Paris from Montmartre Basilica

The Montmartre Basilica at the end of a street

A closed café with chairs behind window

Street view of Paris

The Tartempion restaurant in Montmartre

That was the end of this roll. I developed and scanned it right after returning to my tiny flat. I am humbly happy with the results, a lot of the photos are really nice and sharp. It sure takes a time to get used to the way of shooting with this type of tiny camera, especially the focus by distance estimation… but once you get it, you can get great results!

This camera actually helped me a lot to be more comfortable shooting street photography. Since covid lockdowns, I always have it with me in a pocket and I am less shy capturing daily moments.

I hope to see a Paris with more activity soon. Though I still have these photos now to tell my grandchildren how it was in 2020-21…

You can find this series and my work on my Instagram account @angelefrt

Thanks to 35mmc for letting me share my experience. Hope you liked it.

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21 thoughts on “Empty Paris – Covid 19 & Parisian Walks with a Minox 35ML – Angèle Fourteau”

  1. Oh, how wonderful to be able to walk around Paris without the crowds! We tourists are the world’s worst polluters (I don’t mean in the ecological sense here) as we spoil popular viewspots by our overcrowded presence.
    Most simply bemoan the fact that we have been unable to get out and about, but for photographers it runs a bit deeper and if one is well placed geographically, as with you, lockdowns have produced an unusual experience and opportunity. Seeing your images so devoid of the usual crowds is eye-opening and I am sure that when we return to some form of normality you will have an interesting opportunity to retrace your steps and capture the same views for comparison, and you will be well placed to answer the question “what was life like during covid lockdowns.”
    In many ways your images reminded of Eugene Atget’s images of Paris.

  2. Lovely photos- there’s an air of another age about them (a trick that’s quite easy to pull off with standard black & white photography). I’ve just been reading Geoff Dyer’s excellent “The Ongoing Moment” as he wanders in the minds and biographies of great photographers and there’s plenty of it in Paris in the early 20th Century, so your pics certainly resonate with me at the moment.

  3. You have gotten some beautiful shots. I am taken with the photos where you were able to keep all signs of current life (cars, cellphone ads, etc.) out of the pictures, which lend them a timeless quality (of course aided by being in black and white!). Bravo.

  4. Hi Angèle,
    Nice post and nice photos.
    It reminds my period in Paris between 1982 and 1994 where I had a Minox 35 GT.
    I always carried it with me, the same way you do today.
    I never experiencenced Paris as calm as you did.
    Your pictures are “hors du temps” (timeless) and have a charm that I didn’t suspect.
    By the way, on one of your pictures from above Montmartre looking down, I can see the roofs of my tiny flat Avenue Trudaine 😉
    My Metro station was “Anvers”…funny for a Belgian guy
    My Minox ended his life in Bretagne after a splash of ocean water.
    I still regret that wonderfull camera.

  5. Maybe a helpfull trick:
    You can override all automatism by moving the plastic protection out of the hot shoe on the flash mount.
    Get it out, turn it 180° and the shutter is locked at 1/60 (for flash)
    You will have total manual control but at 1/60 sec.

  6. When you remove the plastic cover, there are two arrows indicating the right way to insert the protection.
    You will see a small dent on the upper left side.
    this disables the flash when the protection is on your camera.
    If you turn it 180° this will tell your camera that the flash is mouneted and it overrides the automatic exposure.

  7. All lovely photos. I found the one of a china shop (?) with an automotive “do not enter” sign immediately in front of it tickling my sense of humor. What! They don’t have drive-through china shops in Paris!? Horrors! ???? ???? ????
    Many thanks,

  8. Les photos sont tres belles. I really liked the ones earlier in the post that captured the interplay of light and shadow.

  9. Bonjour Madame Fourteau,

    Je vous écris en français, comme j’ai des difficultés à m’exprimer correctement en anglais, je comprends bien cette langue mais j’ai du mal à le parler et à l’écrire.
    Vos photos m’ont touché, j’ai un amour pour cette merveilleuse ville! J’y étais une fois pour un weekend de Pâques il y a longtemps, et j’ai visité les mêmes lieux que vous. Comme je viens du Luxembourg, flâner à travers le jardin de Luxembourg justement était obligatoire pour moi…à cette époque on ne savait pas encore qu’était covid, il y avait une foule énorme comme la météo était belle, donc je n’ai pas pu prendre beaucoup de photos. Mais je voulais vous écrire tout simplement pour vous faire des compliments pour vos belles vues, la composition et la mise en page de vos photos. Vous avez l’oeil du photographe en voyant les objets différemment de quelqu’un d’autre qui ne s’intéresse pas à la photographie. J’ai aussi une caméra compacte argentique dans ma poche, une Olympus XA, que j’ai vu m’offrir par un Monsieur qui a vidé son grenier pour partir à la maison de retraite. Vu sa compacité comparable à votre Minox elle glisse aussi facilement dans la poche, et je le charge souvent de Kodak Tri-X 400, un film qui me plaît de par son grain, le T-Max étant trop “plat” pour moi…parfois je charge aussi du Fuji Acros.
    Merci beaucoup pour ces beaux moments agréables où j’ai admiré et savouré vos belles photos…


  10. Hi !
    Thank you all for all those lovely comments, and for those who shared their memories ! What a pleasure to see my work being appreciated and inspiring for some of you 😀

    Merci à tous pour ces beaux commentaires, et à tous ceux qui ont partagé leurs souvenirs ! Quel plaisir de voir mon travail être apprécié et inspirant pour certains d’entre vous 😀

    Seen you soon.
    A bientôt !

    – Angèle

  11. Wonderful photos! Of all the cities in the world, I think Paris is the perfect one for photographers. Some of your pics/locations remind me of the work made by Cartier/Bresson, Kertesz, and Erwitt. Your pics are not copies, but reflect both the classic look of the city and how it exists in the 21st century. How fortunate you are to be able to make these photos.

  12. JayDann Walker in Melbourne

    I did Paris in the early 2000s, usually during the autumn months which is my favorite time of year to travel in the northern hemisphere – with a Contax G1 and the legendary Zeiss Planar 35/2.0 – not as compact as your Minox but an easy kit to shoot with.

    My favorite time of day was at sunrise. I would be out and about before 6, walking the streets and photographing whatever I found that captured my interest, for an hour or 90 minutes. Most times I would shoot one roll of B&W (usually Ilford HP5+) or even less, as the peaceful environs enhanced my creativity and gave me the leisure to do more thoughtful composition. No slam-bam-bang photography for me! After 7 more people wee out and about and the city lost its quiet charm, so I would repair to the first small bistro-bar I came to for a coffee and a small croissant – and watch the groups of school girls drop in for a pastis on their way to classes, which I found oddly charming, a quaint French custom (one of many).

    I tried photographing the streets with a Rolleiflex T kit, but it wasn’t the same. The portability of those small 35mm cameras is an important plus factor in getting what I like to call “the Three R’s” – the right images in the right mood at the right time.

    Now we are in the digital age and while I could probably do the same photography with a small Fuji or Sony kit, to me this doesn’t have the same joy as walking and stalking with a small film camera. For this photography, analogue is definitely better.

    Sadly, I no longer travel in Europe and I’ve not been back to Paris since 2008. C19 had put the damper on all my travels for the foreseeable future – but that’s another topic entirely, let’s not go there!!


  13. I had just bought another Minox 35 ml, repaired the small one and now it’s back in my pocket.
    Already have two in the drawer, but mostly other cameras with me; but now again completely fascinated by the so small size that I had to put in a film again.
    All that’s missing is the weekend with some time for little Minox.
    Thanks for the post and the pictures from Paris.

    1. Hi Andy
      Thanks for your message 🙂
      Love to hear that those small cameras still have users here and there.
      Can I ask how did you repair your Minox ? I got a second ML one who is broken (the cap is not opening entirely) has to leave it on the shelf. But if you have good tips to repair Minox ml i’m all ear 😉
      Have a great day

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