How do U picture Versailles?


I lived not too far away in the late 1980s, so I went to Versailles a couple of times, usually in winter when there were fewer tourists. This was one of the tips given to me by my landlady – I was an hôte payant in the house of a Type A divorced psychologist who lived with her two daughters and and an actor boyfriend named – and I am not putting you on — Frank Danger. In a shed behind our house lived a 50ish painter named Fabienne, who existed without heat or water but sometimes came in for a meal.

To get back on topic: how can you take a picture of Versailles? It’s too big. It’s too historic. It’s too garish. There are too many people standing in front of what you want to shoot. There are very few angles, since there are no stairs or chairs or points of elevation or declivity. It threatens to become the visual embodiment of Last Year at Marienbad,

“… cet hotel immense, luxueux, baroque, lugubre. Où des couloirs interminables succèdent aux couloirs, silencieux, déserts, surchargés d’un décor sombre fait de boiseries, de stuc, de panneaux moulurés, marbre, glaces noires, tableaux aux teintes noires, colonnes, encadrements sculptés de portes, enfilade de portes, de galeries, de couloirs transversaux qui débouchent à leur tour sur des salons déserts, des salons surchargés de l’ornementation d’un autre siècle…”

One of the more interesting and difficult to show aspects of Versailles are the sight-lines, so redolent of Cartesian rationalism. The formal gardens embody them to a T, or an I to be more precise. At the far end, three or four Italian cypresses announce closure, The End. In between the palace and the alley of diminishing trees there is a pool with picnickers and rowing boats, a subject that I played with. Above the pool is this statuary. I tried to put all three planes into one photo.

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