Charles Marville and the Landscapes of the Carrières d’Amérique
by Nancy Locke
In this essay, Nancy Locke considers Charles Marville’s photographs of the Carrières d’Amérique or America Quarries, in the Belleville suburb of Paris, from the 1870s. The author provides a brief history of the quarries and of Marville’s career as the official photographer of Paris, including his associations with Baron Haussmann during the modernization of Paris.
While acknowledging that Marville produced many of his photographs on the commission of Baron Haussmann and the city of Paris, Locke encourages a reading of his images beyond their ties to a particular political narrative. More important, to Locke, is the relation between the images and Marville, a Parisian in the nineteenth century. To illustrate this point, Locke compares Henri Le Secq’s photographs of the America Quarries to Marville’s. She notes that Le Secq’s photographs reinforce the quarries as “other” and, in accordance with contemporary perception, as a dangerous, impoverished place. Marville’s are comparably more approachable. Locke argues they decharacterize the place as one of criminality, thereby contradicting a prevalent attitude associated with Haussmannisation, lend it a sense of order, and demonstrate Marville’s consciousness of the place.