In the photography tours that I do, I often take people to the banks of the river Seine that make for super pictures. People jogging, walking their dogs, picnicking, painting and playing music and of course the different boats going by. Last Friday due to the flooding of the River Seine it made for completely different photographs. A totally unique and spectacular sight of roads, signs and cars under water, something that I have never seen in my 25 years of living here.
As I had already programmed a photography tour with Susan, a keen amateur photographer for that afternoon, I told her that if she was free she could accompany me in the morning to take pictures of the flooded Seine iriver i n addition to her afternoon tour. She jumped at the chance.
We made straight for metro Javel, in the 15th arrondisement in the west part of Paris. An area where I very rarely ever take anyone on a photography tour as with limited time, there are better places to go. It was a good decision and within minutes we were on the platform of the RER C where loads of passengers were hoping to get on a train inspite of the flooded lines. An SNCF man was trying to appease furious passengers complaining bitterly that their strikes were not helping the issue. For us it made a good photo, water on the tracks, people and the Eiffel Tour right in front, touring up in the misty sky. Susan was very pleased as we decided that we would treat the whole day as a lesson in photojournalism.
We decided to stay on the left bank for a while as we saw all the houseboats, cafés and restaurants usually moored to the bank floating on the water, accessible only by boat. We saw a dinghy bobbing on the water trying to access a boat that had clearly suffered a lot of damage. We then took a walk along the Allée des Cygnes, a man made island in the middle of the Seine joining the bridges of Grenelle and the Bir Hakeim. It was a staggering sight as it was literally sinking beneath our feet as the water level was still rising and was now lapping the banks of the walkway which is normally way above water level. We clearly saw a statue against the bridge half drowned in water and then to our astonishment we saw 2 cars on the opposite bank with just the roof and top part of the windows visible.
At the Pont de Bir Hakeim we stayed on the left bank and continued to the Eiffel Tower where at the Pont d’Iena we saw the drowned ticket office for the ferry boats going along the Seine. People of all ages were taking pictures at every bridge and there were photographers and TV crews everywhere.
As the west of Paris was so spectacular and it boasts the Eiffel Tower, an important landmark to any tourist, we walked across the bridge leading to Trocadero and turned back in the direction of which we had come but on the right bank this time. I wanted us to take some photographs that showed the flooded expressway that runs along the banks of the river from west to east. This proved to be even more amazing than the other side, particularly as the water level was still rising according to some engineers we met.
Sure enough from the safety of the road above we looked down to the flooded expressway below showing the signposts for motorists with various exits towards central Paris, standing in metres of water with more stranded houseboats. Further along we arrived at was usually an exit to the expressway but had been blocked off for safety reasons as the water had risen up the ramp. In order to get a good view of the sign posts and the Eiffel Tower I followed my photojournalist instinct of ‘do what you need to get the picture’, and we jumped over the barriers onto the ramp right up to where the water was lapping at our feet. There was even an upturned chair floating in the muddy water which must have come from one of the cafés or restaurants moored along the banks.
Pleased with these images we then continued along the upper banks until we came to a small road leading to the flooded expressway. A number of people including a TV crew were congregated there next to a parking meter and right in front of us was the Seine with something white in the water between a couple of road signs which on closer inspection turned out to be another car roof. We realised that this must have been a parking lot! This made for more great telling shots, although I would not like to have been its owner and cannot imagine the amount of damage that this flood must have caused to many people.
We decided to stick to the theme of the flood for the rest of the afternoon and spent it on both banks between Ile de la Cité and Ile St Louis. In central Paris both residents and tourists were gathered at the bridges watching the scene with awe. The river, no longer so far below us, was swirling and carrying debris which was all we saw on the water with the exception of the odd boat with police aboard speeding by, a far cry from the usual life on the Seine with its many barges, boats and ferries passing by, way into the night. The water level is still high as I write this, although it is slowly going down. I doubt that future photography tours along the Seine will ever be quite the same.