Urban Terrain in Paris • Harry Gruyaert • Magnum Photos

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Urban Terrain in Paris

Harry Gruyaert casts a colorful and kinetic eye over Paris as its inhabitants traverse the city

Harry Gruyaert

Harry Gruyaert Children and teenagers playing in the fountains of Stalingrad square. Paris, France. 2015. © Harry Gruyaert | Magnum Photos

“My legs are as important as my eyes,” declares Magnum’s Harry Gruyaert, who says that he always moves around a lot when he’s photographing. The Belgian photographer moved to Paris, where he initially worked as a fashion photographer, after studying film and photography in Brussels. His work is characterized by a kinetic use of color, to cinematic effect. “I photograph colors, movements; it is my way of perceiving the world,” he says.

Harry Gruyaert Paris, France. 2017. © Harry Gruyaert | Magnum Photos
Harry Gruyaert Saint Denis - Stade de France. train station. Paris, France. © Harry Gruyaert | Magnum Photos
Harry Gruyaert Gare de Lyon train station. Paris, France. 2016. © Harry Gruyaert | Magnum Photos

In this photographic study, Gruyaert explores the city in which he lives with a new perspective: examining the movement of people around the urban terrain. “I was happy to photograph Paris,” he says. “It’s never easy to work in the city where you live. I think my photographs say something about the current moment and the places in which they were taken. I always hope to transmit a certain joy for life through my images.”

Harry Gruyaert Paris, France. 2015. © Harry Gruyaert | Magnum Photos

"I photograph colors, movements; it is my way of perceiving the world"

- Harry Gruyart

“They are images not of single moments or intermediate steps; they are rather acknowledgements of edgy and unstoppable change,” noted the writer Richard Nonas of Gruyaert’s work, published in Edges, by Textuel Editions (2003).

“They are not quite lifelike, but they are not dreamlike either. They are thoughts: filled completely, and yet confusing; strangely ambiguous and yet primary in their juxtapositions. They are never either questions or answers. They are information. They are complex bits of the world, knifed somehow into my consciences: unresolved, not yet hardened, changing, but completely there…Partly it is the color that does that, and partly it is the sudden sense of explosive change just outside the frame.”

Harry Gruyaert Zoo. Paris, France. 2016. © Harry Gruyaert | Magnum Photos
Harry Gruyaert Paris-Plage on the Seine river banks. Paris, France. 2016. © Harry Gruyaert | Magnum Photos
Harry Gruyaert Forum des Halles shopping mall. Paris, France. 2016. © Harry Gruyaert | Magnum Photos
Harry Gruyaert Beaubourg Art Center entrance. Paris, France. 2015. © Harry Gruyaert | Magnum Photos

This story is part of The France Project: perspectives on the social, political and cultural landscape of contemporary France. In this ongoing project, initiated in 2016, Magnum photographers explore the background to  issues influencing debate in the country in the run-up to the election. See more stories from this project here.

Harry Gruyaert Communist Party headquarters during "Nuit Blanche" art happening. Paris, France. 2016. © Harry Gruyaert | Magnum Photos
Harry Gruyaert Paris seen from the inside of George Pompidou-Beaubourg art center. Paris, France. 2016. © Harry Gruyaert | Magnum Photos