Photographer Mary Quincy on Capturing the Real ParisBy Robin Bennefield
Paris inspires anyone with a camera. (Photos and cinemagraphs: Mary Quincy)
Mary Quincy lives in Paris’ Montmartre, where she loves to walk before tourists arrive, photographing the early morning habits of painters and cafés starting to open as the sun rises over Sacré-Coeur.
“This moment is truly typical of Paris, in my opinion,” the self-taught photographer says. “Paris is a city where artists feel alive and inspired, constantly.”
Quincy must count herself among these inspired artists, sharing everyday moments from her daily life in Paris on Instagram. Here, she shares some of these moments, artfully captured as cinemagraphs, along with her local perspective on the City of Light.
What is the story behind this image? Why did you want to capture this moment?
I absolutely love to wander around Notre Dame, not for the monument itself but for what’s around it. The Shakespeare & Company bookstore attracts many people who just stand outside and browse through the books. This young lady was dressed like a real Parisian with her hat, and my guess was that she wasn’t looking for a specific book. She looked perfect in this moment : people were walking around her and she was still, in a comfortable position, going through the books. A real Parisian lady, taking a break in one of the prettiest places in the city.
What kind of camera (or camera phone) did you use to get the shot? What do you like about it?
I used my Sony Alpha 7 II (lenses 24/70 & 16/35) to get these shots. I used to use my phone a lot when I started photography, but once I started using my camera, I was hooked! It’s light and easy to carry. There are so many possibilities to capture one scene with it, and the colors that I get from it are wonderful.
What inspires you most about Paris, creatively?
Living in Paris is like living in a museum. Everything is impressive, beautiful, unique. It’s difficult for me to find one particular thing that inspires me more because I feel inspired every time I take a stroll around the city, every time I get out of my apartment and see the SacréCoeur…. To me, Paris is one of the most photogenic cities in the world. Everywhere I look, I see a photograph. What it would be like as a shot. Every angle, every corner is worth being photographed.
What is your favorite arrondissement to photograph; to spend time in?
I love the 18th, Montmartre. This is where I live, and I am always amazed by how wonderful it is. It’s like being in a small village outside of the city. I am not really aware of what’s happening elsewhere in Paris when I am in Montmartre as it feels like I am completely disconnected from the city. I usually wake up early in the morning and walk around to capture the neighborhood completely empty. The little streets, the Sacré-Coeur, the Place du Tertre where one painter is installing his easel… This never gets tiring.
Most photographers know that the golden hour, sunrise or sunset, is the best time to take a photo anywhere, but what is your favorite time of year to take pictures in Paris — winter, spring, summer or fall?
Definitely the fall. When the leaves change colors, when the city changes its mood… It feels like the city wakes up, and Parisians start a new year. I also love winter, as the Christmas spirit is everywhere around town. But the fall remains my favorite time of the year, as a Parisian and as a photographer.
How do you find unique ways to photograph some of the most photographed sights in the world like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre?
It can never be the same. The light is always different, people around are also very different. There are so many different ways to capture one classic spot in town as to me, there can never be a single way to capture it. The key is to not go to the touristic spots where everyone gathers￼and stares at the iconic monument. There are so many different angles and places where you can capture the Eiffel Tower.
Is there a least photographed place in Paris, a hidden gem that you love?
Yes, absolutely. I love the hidden little streets in the city where no one goes but which are absolutely gorgeous. The Rue des Thermopyles is not in a touristic area, but it’s a little street where houses are covered in leaves, they have different colors and the mood there changes everyday as seasons go by and leaves change colors.
What are some common mistakes when photographing Paris and what are some tips to get the best photos for Instagram or sharing with friends anywhere?
Avoid all the really touristic areas such as Trocadero or the Champs de Mars. Instead, head to rooftops where you can get the best views of the city from above, like the terrace at the top of the Printemps department store. Try to get up early to capture the city when no one is awake. Feeling like you own the city somehow is the best feeling. Catch the sunrise on the banks of the Seine! It’s the best! During the day, it’s a lot more difficult to take photos without anyone around.
Where do you go in Paris to feel like a local? Do you have a favorite café, bar or park?
I go to the Soul Kitchen café in Montmartre. It’s close to my house and this is where I work all the time. Everything is great there: the coffee, the food, the music, the mood. I never go to bars in touristic areas and I prefer to find local bars in neighborhoods that are mostly known for locals. But my favorite park is the Palais Royal gardens. It’s a small park but it’s extremely relaxing and I go there every week to sit on a chair and enjoy silence and a good coffee from Café Kitsuné.
There are so many things that people think they know about Paris, but what is something few know?
There are three Statues of Liberty in Paris! One is on the Seine, on the Ile des Cignes, near the Eiffel Tower. The second one is in the Luxembourg Garden, and the third one is right in front of the Arts and Métiers museum!
What’s your favorite Paris photo story? Have you photographed something unexpected or someone unusual?
A mother and daughter were walking to work one morning, around 7 a.m. and I was there capturing the sunrise over the Sacré-Coeur on Place du Tertre. I saw them walking in a hurry, having the same gait. The scene was wonderful. I framed the photo and it’s in my apartment. That’s how much I love this photo story!
What Instagram filter best represents Paris?
I don’t use Instagram filters, but Aden and Moon might be the best ones to represent Paris.