Romance has always been a favorite topic of many photographers. After all, who doesn’t like capturing scenes of love and tenderness? But sometimes, it’s not romance that you need in order to fill the frames but reality — no matter how harsh and saddening it may be.
This is what the new exhibition titled La Zone/ The Zone shows us. It’s a collection of largely unseen photos of people in France’s notorious slum area where ‘hope’ was often spoken of but seldom found. The exhibition is on display until December 8, 2018 at the Lumiere des Roses Gallery in Rue Jean Jacques Rosseau, Montreuil, France. Majority of the 150 photographs included in the exhibition were captured by unknown photographers — some of whom were only assigned to take photos of the Zone. It’s gritty, dramatic, and most of all; real. The documentary work featured in this exhibit are estimated to have been from 1910 through 1960.
The Zone is a strip of land that runs along 34 kilometers of fortified structures built around Paris in 1844. It was a means to defend the city but was soon abandoned as it proved to be ineffective in battle. A population of poor people soon occupied these lands, not minding the lack of water and electricity. To them, it was home. People kept on coming and soon the Zone became a slum area. Massive poverty and squalid living conditions plagued the people. It was a wasteland and there was ultimately nothing romantic about it. The photos serve as a reminder that this place and the people who lived in it, in fact, existed. Beyond the smiles were gripping stories, that if weren’t for these images, would have been forgotten and lost forever.