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Rebuilding Notre-Dame – The Leica digital camera Weblog


On April 15 and 16, 2019, a significant hearth ate its means via giant parts of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, some of the stunning examples of French Gothic structure, and a nationwide image. Photos of the blazing roof swept world wide, and it was quickly evident that reconstruction efforts would take years. Tomas van Houtryve returned to the location repeatedly, documenting the restoration work carried out by dozens of craftsmen. Along with drone footage and moist plate collodion photographs, he used his Leica SL2 to seize spectacular insights from uncommon views. Van Houtryve spoke with us about his method to pictures, about what the development web site means to him, the particular {qualifications} wanted to work on the location, and his respect for this mission of the century.

Whereas Notre-Dame was present process renovation and restoration in 2019, its roof caught hearth and the constructing was critically broken. The reconstruction started in 2021. How did your photographic mission on the web site come about?
I used to be contacted in regards to the mission by Nationwide Geographic in Spring 2020. They knew that I had a number of expertise that might be related for this story. Probably the most troublesome half was getting access to the cathedral. The French authorities created a particular public entity to revive Notre-Dame Cathedral, and I used to be in discussions with them for 5 months earlier than I lastly acquired entry. The worksite was very harmful, so I used to be required to do coaching regarding poisonous lead publicity, and about easy methods to work at heights with ropes and harnesses. I quickly gained the belief of the directors and employees, and I used to be in a position to companion with them and acquire prime stage entry to each a part of the cathedral.

What did it imply to you to see the constructing on hearth? Had been you there when the hearth was burning?
I used to be in my residence in Paris when Notre-Dame began burning; however I first realized about it via a textual content message from a buddy on the opposite facet of the world. The preliminary photographs of the burning cathedral unfold via the worldwide media even sooner than the hearth unfold via the roof! I’ve a pricey buddy who lives proper subsequent to Notre-Dame, so my preliminary fear was about him. As soon as I realized he was secure, my ideas turned to the constructing, and I used to be struck by the identical feelings as so many different Parisians: horror and disbelief. Notre-Dame is the epicentre of French historical past. It’s the most well-known Gothic cathedral in France. It’s the topic of Victor Hugo’s celebrated novel. It’s the place Napoleon topped himself. It was marked by the French Revolution and the liberation of Paris after WWII. Few locations on earth are the vessel of so many layers of historical past.

Did you do numerous analysis on Notre-Dame to be able to know the place to maneuver on web site?
Sure, I learn as a lot as I might in regards to the structure and in regards to the in depth nineteenth century restoration by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. I additionally re-read Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris and purchased books on the earliest images of the cathedral. I made a decision that I had two goals in photographing the cathedral: documenting this historic second, and utilizing it as a spot of inspiration.

What Leica digital camera did you employ for the mission?
More often than not I used an SL2 and the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90 f/2.8-4 ASPH. This was truly an uncommon setup for me. I’m extra used to utilizing a small M digital camera with a 35mm lens.

What have been the best challenges whereas engaged on web site?
The principle constraint when working inside Notre-Dame is the lead contamination. The roof was manufactured from lead, and when it burnt it despatched poisonous smoke and mud particles in all places. Every time I entered the location I used to be required to take away my road cloths and placed on a disposable, chemical-resistant HazMat go well with. Every time I left the location I used to be required to take away the HazMat go well with and take a bathe. In some areas of excessive emissions on the cathedral, I needed to put on a motor-assisted respirator masks whereas I labored, and needed to rinse off my cameras earlier than leaving the location. In these conditions, the SL2 and a single zoom lens was the best choice. I didn’t need to danger lead particles contaminating the sensor by altering lenses, and the IP54 climate sealing protected the digital camera from mud and water. There have been different instances that lead contamination wasn’t a problem, and I might use different lenses, together with a Summilux-M 35 f/1.4, a PC Tremendous Angulon-R 28 f/2.8 and a Summilux-M 75 f/1.4.

What are probably the most vital belongings you’ve noticed at Notre-Dame?
I requested a crane operator to place me and my digital camera at precisely the place the place the spire was earlier than the hearth. I pointed my digital camera straight down into the center of the opening. The darkish particles from the hearth will be seen on the foreground of the body and a delicate gentle shining via nets from the altar will be seen beneath. It was a really highly effective second to be within the vertex of this historic place and peer straight into the wounded constructing.

You might be well-known in your interaction of sunshine and shadow. What sort of stylistic components do you want; and which did you employ for this collection and why? What was your focus?
I attempted to be very observant and impressed by the architects of Notre-Dame. I might let my eyes comply with a line or a beam of sunshine and the remainder was simply instinct.

What do you propose to attain with this mission? What message would you prefer to get throughout?
I can’t consider any initiatives at present the place the builders begin one thing understanding that it’s going to solely be completed a number of generations later. The concept of multi-generational development that’s later restored and cherished over time may be very transferring to me. There is not only the historical past of employees on the web site, but in addition painters and photographers. I used to be very aware of including to an extended line of people that have celebrated and born witness to the cathedral.

The Belgian photographer Tomas van Houtryve was born in California in 1975 and studied Philosophy, Photojournalism and Images on the College of Colorado. He was a Leica Oskar Barnack Award Finalist 2011 together with his collection Behind the Curtains of twenty first Century Communism, which appeared as a e-book in 2012. In 2014, van Houtryve’s Blue Sky Days collection was printed in Harper’s as the biggest photograph portfolio within the journal’s 164-year historical past. In 2019 he was once more Leica Oskar Barnack Award finalist, that includes his collection Traces and Lineage.
His initiatives have gained vital consideration amongst cultural establishments and the press, and are extensively exhibited, together with at C/O Berlin (2021), Baudoin Lebon Gallery, Paris (2019), Worldwide Heart for Images Museum, New York (2017), Museum für Fotografie, Berlin (2017), Galerija Vartai, Vilnius (2017), Southeastern Heart for Modern Artwork, and Fotografisk Heart, Copenhagen (2016). He’s an Emeritus Member of the VII Company. Discover out extra about his pictures on his web site and Instagram web page.

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