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Queens Chronicle

Frozen moments on the streets of Paris

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Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2013 10:30 am

Woodside resident George Romanation’s black-and-white photography book of Paris is a long time coming.

Romanation, 58, a Parson School of Design graduate and travel consultant for corporations and for the United Nations, has been visiting the City of Love for 25 years. With each trip he snaps more pictures of everyday life — a day at the cafe, a ride on a carousel and a cat nap at the Louvre.

“The common thread that runs through many of the photos is an expression of life’s emotions — love, affection, sadness, humor,” Romanation said. “I hope my pictures convey how fleeting and precious these moments are.”

Romanation’s style in the book “Paris Personal” emulates street photographers of the ’40s and ’50s, the type of work seen in “National Geographic” and “Life” magazines during that era, he said.

Romanation likes to pick a neighborhood, museum or locale like the banks of the Seine to walk around for the day with his 35 mm Nikon and a surplus of black-and-white film. He gives himself no boundaries or stipulations, but takes pictures of the moments that strike him.

Sometimes he gets lucky, as on one visit in 1995 when he took five of the images that are published in the book; other times he’ll go days without pressing the shutter release.

One day he’ll take several images, but other times he just has one chance. That was the case one day at the Louvre museum. Romanation glanced at a bench next to a classic nude sculpture about 50 yards away using his zoom lens. What caught his eye was a slouched woman with her forehead on her knees.

“I don't know if she was upset or depressed or if she was just taking a power nap,” he said. “I took one frame. A second later she got up, shook her head and went about her day.”

Those moments he thought were perfect can be interpreted completely differently by someone else. “That’s the fascinating part of street photography,” he said. “It’s in the eye of the beholder.”

Or that moment could be ruined by a tourist who wanders seemingly out of nowhere and into the frame. Or perhaps what he clicked isn’t seen until he prints it out.

That was the case with his favorite photo of the famous Cafe de Flore where Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Albert Camus would write, chat and sip coffee.

Romanation would also end his days there while on his vacations. The cover picture on his book is one such moment

“The menu and the woman in the center with two shopping bags are aligned perfectly,” Romanation said. “Everything in my view fell in perfect harmony, but it’s a completely random street moment. It’s completely a split second frozen in time.”

“It also has sentimental value,” he said.

The self-published book, which is available on blurb.com for $44, or $60 for a hardcover, compiles the Woodsider’s 30 favorite photos from Paris beginning with the first year he visited, 1988, to the arbitrary end year of 2000.

“It took a long time,” Romanation said. “Life kept getting in the way.”

Romanation plans to compile a book of his home city in the future. Let’s hope we won’t need to wait another quarter century for a glimpse.

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