Book Review: Above Paris

Above Paris: The Aerial Photography of Roger Henrard by Jean-Louis Cohen

When pilot Roger Henrard photographed Paris from his single-engine plane between for over twenty years starting in 1950, he caught Paris not only in the twilight of its Classical period but also in its grips with Modernism. These postwar years saw many European cities transform their historical centers, healing the scars of destruction. While Paris did not suffer a similar fate, surviving largely intact, this transformation occurred at its edges. Images illustrating this transformation begin this beautiful compilation of 320 of Henrard's carefully-composed aerial photographs.

We see the construction of the Pereferique, the ring road encircling Paris that followed Napoleon III's fortified walls. This freeway is the modern equivalent of the city's most well-known large public works campaign: the boulevards of Baron Haussmann. Of course we see these linear paths across the city in many of Henrard's aerials; along with the Seine, the boulevards are what make Paris Paris.

In addition to the major networks (river, rail, road), Henrard focuses on the spaces and places that are important to Paris: the parks, the palaces, and the major public institutions. These last conclude the book, which moves from periphery to center, big to small across its roughly 300 pages. The horizontal format of the book not only cleverly displays the image alongside an informative sidebar with map and description, but it allows the book to stay open, allowing the reader to take in the photographs and their numerous details.