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Love and Death in the City of Light: A Review of “Paris Sojourn” at Epiphany
The current exhibition at Epiphany Center for the Arts, in the crypt of all places, shows photographer Mark Ballogg at his finest. His long love affair with all things Paris is apparent in these photographs spanning thirty-plus years. Ballogg created a book that includes the images in this show. Its title is “Père Lachaise,” but like the show, it is rich with atmospheric shots of the City of Light—timeless captures, emotive and evocative. He has compiled these images, both black-and-white and color, into a virtual walking tour of Paris’ most intimate spots, few of which would ever appear in a guidebook. They range from Technicolor, out-of-the-way street scenes that take the viewer back decades, to exceptionally beautiful and moving cemetery images from “Père Lachaise.” Ballogg, who uses a four-by-five view camera, has an eye to be envied, likely earned from his many years as an architectural photographer.
Mark Ballogg, “Imprimerie”/Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Epiphany Center for the Arts.
For fans of the morose, the cemetery appears in all its glory—monuments lined up along the “streets” that fill the cemetery, each named as if Père Lachaise is a small town within the city of Paris. There are spires that reach toward the clouds, and quiet monuments low to the ground, dusted with moss. In one particularly fascinating image, “Chemin du Dragon Famille Gaumont,” Ballogg has captured, hidden deep within a cove, the figure of a bat, beneath which some clever graffitist has scratched the word “Batman” into the stone.
Mark Ballogg, “Avenue des Peupliers”/Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Epiphany Center for the Arts.
In another image, titled “Avenue des Peupliers,” artificial roses lie on the ground next to a toppled crucifix. A fallen leaf completes the composition and shows Ballogg’s affinity for space and form. As you study these images, the variety of monuments is remarkable—no two are similar, and many are a century old or older.
Mark Ballogg, “Île de la Cité”/Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Epiphany Center for the Arts.
Among the color photographs, “Imprimerie” is a favorite. A pastel-blue car from another era is reflected in the mirrored window of a print shop, while a passage leads to a courtyard glimpsed beyond a half-open gate. In another, “Île de la Cité,” a couple pays homage to the Martyrs of the Deportation monument while the Seine flows peacefully in the background. In “Atget,” Ballogg channels Eugène Atget, a turn-of-the-last-century photographer who spent the last thirty years of his life documenting the city of Paris, in over 10,000 glass plate negatives. The image is archetypal Paris, a doorway into a courtyard, and Ballogg’s title is perfection, as it could have been shot by Atget himself, had he had color film. Mark Ballogg’s love letter to Paris is complete in this show—it takes us to a Paris that no longer exists other than in our memories.
“Paris Sojourn: Père Lachaise/Cityscapes” is at Epiphany Center for the Arts, 201 South Ashland, through September 23.