Paris and the Eiffel Tower Through the Lenses of Magnum Photographers

To mark the 130th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower’s inauguration, we explore how Magnum photographers have captured the monument as the world changes around it

Elliott Erwitt Eiffel tower 100th anniversary. Paris, France. 1989. © Elliott Erwitt | Magnum Photos
Richard Kalvar Roller-skating at the Place du Trocadéro. Paris, France. 1994. © Richard Kalvar | Magnum Photos
Henri Cartier-Bresson Paris, France. 1985. © Henri Cartier-Bresson | Magnum Photos
Guy Le Querrec Place du Trocadéro. Elephant of the Bouglione Circus during the "Cavalcade des cirques", circus cavalcade passing through the town. In the background: the Eiffel Tower. 16th arrondissement, Paris, (...)
George Rodger View over Paris from Notre Dame Cathedral. Paris, France. 1955. © George Rodger | Magnum Photos
Burt Glinn Ornate street lamp on the Pont Alexandre in Paris with the Eiffel Tower in background. Shot in the afterglow of the dusk. Paris, France. 1969. © Burt Glinn | Magnum Photos
Herbert List View from Square at the Palais de Chaillot to the Eiffel tower. Paris, France. 1937. © Herbert List | Magnum Photos
Robert Capa © International Center of Photography A Dior model, wearing a "New Look" long skirt. In the background: the Pont de Grenelle bridge across the Seine River, a replica of the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower. Paris, France. © Robert Capa © International Center of Photography | Magnum Photos
Alex Majoli Fashion week. Rick Owens show. Paris, France. February 2014. © Alex Majoli | Magnum Photos
Jean Gaumy Gathering of 400 well-known French cooks in front of the Eiffel Tower for an advertisement ordered by the French Ministry of Tourism. In the foreground stands the famous chef Paul Bocuse. Trocédero (...)
Guy Le Querrec John Lurie (saxophone, composition), USA. TV shooting for the French channel Canal Plus to celebrate the Eiffel Tower Centenary. Musée d'Art Moderne. © Guy Le Querrec | Magnum Photos
Gueorgui Pinkhassov Eiffel tower. Paris 7th arrondissement, France. 1997. © Gueorgui Pinkhassov | Magnum Photos
Marc Riboud Zazou, the Eiffel tower's painter. Paris, France. 1953. © Marc Riboud | Magnum Photos
Richard Kalvar Man carrying a painting and a bouquet of flowers on the Pont de Grenelle. Paris, France. 1971. © Richard Kalvar | Magnum Photos
Patrick Zachmann The Eiffel Tower. San Tao, China. 1987. © Patrick Zachmann | Magnum Photos
Bruno Barbey March in support of French President Charles de Gaulle. Paris, France. May 30th, 1968. © Bruno Barbey | Magnum Photos
Erich Lessing Meeting at the Eiffel Tower. From left to right, German Ambassador Wilhelm Hausenstein; West-German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, visiting Paris as the first German statesman after the war; the Frenc (...)
René Burri A billboard repairman near the Eiffel Tower. Paris, France. © René Burri | Magnum Photos
Thomas Dworzak #messages intercepted. Paris, France. 2018/01. © Thomas Dworzak | Magnum Photos
Alessandra Sanguinetti The vendor. Jardin des Tuileries, Paris, France. 2016. The vendor. © Alessandra Sanguinetti | Magnum Photos
Martin Parr From 'Small World'. Las Vegas, USA. 2000. © Martin Parr | Magnum Photos
Bruno Barbey Show advertisements on the Lisboa Hotel. Macau. China. 1987. © Bruno Barbey | Magnum Photos

The abundance of trinkets, tokens and mementos made in the image of the Eiffel Tower create the illusion that the essence of the French capital is pocketable, but the real draw of Paris lies beyond its most famous monument. The city’s art, cuisine, music and fashion attracts visitors from all over the world in search of that renowned je ne sais quoi. The towering structure is present in the frame of images depicting all of these things, from Jean Gaumy’s portrait of 400 top cooks, to Richard Kalvar’s picture of a painting being carried over the Pont de Grenelle, Guy le Querrec’s image of musician John Lurie, and Robert Capa’s photograph of a model sporting Dior.

Inaugurated to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution, the structure has long been recognized as the symbol of the republican spirit of the French capital. It has served as backdrop to diplomatic encounters and political protests, seen in Erich Lessing’s post-war reportage and Bruno Barbey’s documentation of the May 1968 demonstrations. It appears in Herbert List’s brooding perspectives on classic Paris iconography in the interwar years that marked the rise of Nazism in Europe.

Once considered an eyesore, a blot on the city’s skyline, by the artistic elite, the symbol of Paris has since been replicated and diffused around the world on calendars, newspapers, postcards, shopping bags, and perfume bottles. On a large scale, the tower finds formidable replicas in the entertainment hubs of cities like Tokyo, Las Vegas, Shenzhen, and Berlin. It is as though everybody wants a piece.

Martin Parr has long observed the culture of global tourism, and his images of tropes like souvenirs frame his idea that “visiting sites is a modern form of pilgrimage and the resulting photos the ultimate prize.” Paired with Alessandra Sanguinetti’s depiction of a vendor and his wares, these pictures allude to tourism and migration being interlinked aspects of globalization.

Shop the Eiffel Tower fine print collection here. Shop the Eiffel Tower poster collection here.

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