Throughout street photography's 150-year history, no city has charmed photographers and audiences quite like Paris. From Louis Daguerre to Henri Cartier-Bresson, photographers have turned to the city of light for its picturesque backdrops and one-of-a-kind culture. As Humanist Photography, a Europe-based genre that emerged in the 1930s, proved popular in post-war Paris, photographers shifted their focus from shots of scenery to candid portraiture, as particularly evident in the portfolio of Swiss-born Sabine Weiss.
As one of the movement's major figures, Weiss is praised for her eclectic yet distinctive approach to street photography. After moving from Geneva to Paris in 1946, she adopted her new home as her main muse, dedicating much of her time to snapping shots of Parisian passers-by. From endearing shots of embracing couples and frolicking children to unidealized depictions of struggling social classes, her collection of photos captures 1950s Paris through a true-to-life lens.
While Weiss is particularly renowned for her portfolio of Paris photos, her extensive oeuvre also exhibits an interest in exploring everyday life in locations around the world, including London, New York, and Egypt. Transcending the aesthetic aspects of her practice, this globe-trotting approach to the craft ultimately conveys her desire to experience other cultures. “It’s a chance to talk to anybody, to travel and meet different people,” she explains. “Photography opens so many doors!”
You can find a comprehensive collection of her fascinating photographs—both in Paris and beyond—on her website.
In the 1950s, Sabine Weiss—a major figure of the Humanist Photography movement—gained prominence for her street photography collection of candid Paris photos.