Paris, birthplace of photography and spectacles like the Expo and the Olympic Games; the city that gave us modernity its structures and its gaze; home to countless influential artists and thinkers, alive and dead: Samuel Beckett, Man Ray, Susan Sontag, Derek Jarman, Tristan Tzara. What does a photographer like Kyoji Takahashi, whose unique portrait and landscape images have earned him recognition since the 1990s, make of such a city?
The photographs in “Midnight Call” were taken in autumn 2019, during Takahashi’s first visit to the French capital and only a few months before the Corona virus changed the world. Takahashi’s interested gaze shifts from spectacle in the streets to vague detail shots, includes personal portraits as much as views from inside churches, pays tribute to achievements (and achievers) of the past and stays focused on Paris as it is now.
“What color are the people that eat cheese and bread and drink hot coffee and purple wine? What should one do in Paris? Go to graveyards, go to art museums, look at people walking the streets, wear a coat, exhale clouds of white breath. Be surprised by the blue sky, the moving clouds, over the roof of the apartment opposite. The dark elevator has a pleasant, slightly bitter smell. Old man and walking stick and tiny dog. Children and gloves and scarves, and a different wig each day for Mother.
So, what’s it like to be born in Paris?
To write in French?
What’s your favorite flower?
What age do you want to live to?
What’s your favorite eye color?
Do you get along well with cats?”
— from Kyoji Takahashi’s statement (included in Japanese and English)
The concept of the book extends to its design: many pages are connected at the top, hiding additional images and texts. The connection is perforated and may be cut with scissors or a knife, or enjoyed as-is.