The Paris Journal: The Story Behind The Stories

Montmartre, Nichole Robertson, Obvious State

To provide a little background on how The Paris Journal came about, I wanted to share a little of the long process that lead us here, including a few failures along the way.

Although there are many things about this project that are breaking new ground for us, the aesthetic point of view behind it hasn’t changed since Nichole first started posting photos in 2009. The aim then, as it is now, was to take the viewer to Paris on a vicarious walk around the city.

While Nichole was shooting the Paris Color Project, I was with her every step of the way. Because of my background in film, I was thinking about video as a narrative vehicle, and how it could compliment the intimate details she was photographing to bring the viewer as close to Paris as possible.

The first foray into video was a series of test videos called “One Place, One Time,” shot around Montmartre and the Marais, and partially shared on the old blog at the end of 2009. The idea was to keep them unedited and un-hosted in order to create a direct, voyeuristic experience. The hope was that a series of these unedited, one-minute snapshots would cumulatively capture the essence of a neighborhood.

But the videos were, well, awful. By refusing to edit, they had no real point of view, and by being formulaic, they had no story. However they made it clear that if the videos were to create the sense of walking around a neighborhood, they would need to be:

1. Focused. You can’t capture the essence of a place by filming everything.

2. Chronological. 50 videos of 50 street corners don’t add up to a cohesive story of a neighborhood just because you shoot them the same way. You need to create a sense of time.

3. Local: If you want to deliver a human experience, think on a human scale. Go for a slow walk and see how much ground you really cover. It’s less than you think.

The real revelation happened about a year ago while working on a potential project about Paris Light for Chronicle Books. I realized that Nichole’s photography and my videos could work together to tell a simple, intimate story of a walk if they were actually structured like a walk – linear (morning to night) and local (where we walked during that time). Each book would only cover one neighborhood over the course of one day.

Along the way, there were many more experiments, including writing commentary as if it were an actual journal. In that case, we found that the more we editorialized, the more it became about our experience instead of yours. The story had to be exclusively visual.

Creating The Paris Journal was a very slow and sometimes frustrating process: Years of trial and error, seven trips, months of editing and compiling, and some pretty steep technological learning curves (apps!), but it was worth it. We are really thrilled with the final concept and with the first volume. 125 photos and 14 videos are integrated into a digital book that tells the story of one day in one Paris neighborhood, from morning to night. It’s a true labor of love, and we can’t wait to share it with you this Tuesday.

– Evan


  • The two of you are remarkable. I truly cannot wait for this new journey that you will take us on. Thanks to the two of you Paris is never far from my visual thoughts. Words can never express my gratitude that you have given me a completely different view of Paris, how I will see my daily life, and how I will shoot things differently in my own photography. @wingnut817

  • This is extremely important and welcomed by me…I love Paris…I’ll probably never go there. My physical health prevents me from traveling. I devour all travel logs…and finding Nicole’s photos have brought me a point of view I haven’t seen before. I like what she sees. I can’t wait to hold Paris in my hands, which is what the IPAD offers, better than a TV screen, a more intimate trip. As far a I can tell, you’ve got jobs for the rest of your lives, because after Paris, and the 21 regions of France…all the rest of Europe awaits us…bon voyage!

  • Great to get the background on this project, Evan and Nichole. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow and getting your latest endeavor on my iPad! (Having navigated the hair-pulling route of getting two of our travel photo/video books into the iBookstore, I can fully appreciate the journey and admire your persistence!) Congrats!

  • Thanks Georgianna!

    The process was ridiculous, and I never thought it would take as long as it did. Most of the heavy-lifting was on Evan’s end, and there were many hair-pulling nights.

    Send me a link to the books, I would love to see them!

  • also a question……..
    did the bartender in the photograph in the evening section of the journal know he was being photographed and know he would end up in an app? did you have to get him to sign a consent? did you have to pay him? i suppose it is not an issue for the “back of the head” photos of the people – maybe it is not an issue at all – just wondering really………
    (again, you guys are amazing!)

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