Book review: Bridges of Paris

Bridges of Paris, a coffee table book, tells the story of the 37 bridges crossing the River Seine in France’s capital.

Michael Saint James, an American photojournalist, is the author and photographer behind this attractive book. It contains more than 350 colour photos of Paris and its bridges.

The book is organised into four sections, starting with Paris’s island bridges before moving on to those by the city’s palaces. The bridges downstream of the city are grouped third. The final section explores the upstream bridges.

Michael Saint James’ copy and photographs

Saint James’ introduction explains how he became involved in this project. He immersed himself in Parisian life for a year in order to create the photographs illustrating this book. Over that time he got to know the city and its bridges, discovering facts that enable him to weave stories and make insightful images. By getting a feel for the City of Light Saint James steers clear of stereotypes and conveys Paris with verve.

He reveals his favourite bridge is the Petit Pont, the structure that he chose to illustrate the cover of Bridges of Paris. That shot, framed by the arched underside of a neighbouring bridge, is, like several of the images in the book, a well-balanced long-exposure taken at night. A bridge has spanned the Seine at this point since at least 52BC, though the Petit Pont dates from 1853.

Parisian history and insights

Bridges of Paris is dotted with facts and facets of the city’s history. Although Paris has more than 300 bridges only 37 of them span the River Seine. The 482-mile (776-kilometre) long river is named after a Celtic goddess, Sicauna.

The chapter entitled Bridging the Past looks at the history of the city from Roman times though to the modern era. Nineteen of Paris’s bridges over the River Seine were built between 1800 and 1900.

Each of the bridges is introduced with a page or two of history-laced copy. A fact box includes the date of the first bridge on the site and the year the current structure was opened. Its length, width and number of arches are provided, along with the present purpose of the bridge. The introduction to the Mirabeau Bridge also includes Guillaume Apollinaire’s poem Le Pont Mirabeau, in both French and English.

Photography of Paris’s bridges over the River Seine

The pages of Bridges of Paris display photos ranging from close-ups of love locks on the Pont de l’Archevêché through architectural details to images of people exploring the crossing points of the city. Arguably, some of the most impressive photos in the book are those of landmarks illuminated at night. There are elements of street photography too, with scenes from everyday Parisian life.

This book is likely to appeal to Francophiles, lovers of Paris and, of course, bridge aficionados.

Further information

Find out more about Michael Saint James’ coffee table book on the Bridges of Paris website, where you can order copies.

The site includes information about the author and photographer, reviews of the book, plus a blog about Michael Saint James’ experiences while living in the French capital for a year and working on the book.

The hardcover book measures 14” (35.6 cm) by 9.5” (24.1 cm) and has 280 full colour pages. Bridges of Paris is published by Citron Bay Press and costs US$85.

You can also order the book via the Amazon website.

Bridges of Paris, a coffee table book by Michael Saint James.
Bridges of Paris, a coffee table book by Michael Saint James.

4 Comments

  • Johanna Bradley

    October 14, 2015 at 12:22 Reply

    I saw this book reviewed a while ago, Stuart, and it looks a beauty. Thanks for reminding me. 🙂

    • Stuart

      October 20, 2015 at 14:50 Reply

      Glad to have been of help.

  • Gretta Schifano

    October 16, 2015 at 08:08 Reply

    This sounds like a very interesting book. It’s great to look at a well-known destination from a different angle.

    • Stuart

      October 20, 2015 at 14:51 Reply

      It really does have some fresh takes on well-known locations.

Post a Comment