If I’m being completely honest, Paris was not my first choice for a vacation destination in February. We were headed to Mallorca to meet with my in-laws for a week, and it was cheaper to fly to Paris and then to Spain, so we decided to spend a few days in the French capital. I had never been before, and, for some reason, I was not entirely enthusiastic about visiting the City of Lights at any time of year.

This attitude, of course, was based entirely on what I’ve picked up from the media over the years. To my media-influenced mind, Paris is a city of protests, riots, pickpockets, and Parisians whose sole purpose in life is to be rude and make fun of people who speak French with a non-Parisian accent, like my wife and I who live in Montreal.

Much to my relief, we experienced none of the above on our visit. That’s not to say none of those things happened while we were there. In fact, a general strike began the day before we left the country, and we almost didn’t get to fly out. But, in general, Paris was an absolute delight and, as per usual, my wife’s choice proved to be the correct one.

What we really love to do when we visit a city is to try to experience a particular neighbourhood to its fullest. Or, at least absorb as much as possible within a span of five days. To that end, we made Belleville our home base, a neighbourhood that straddles the 19th and 20th arrondissements (and bleeds over into two more) and is home to a multi-ethnic community including North Africans, Jewish people, Chinese, and working-class French.

I tend to bring two cameras (at least) when we go on vacation. My Canon F1 New and Nikon L35AF, the latter of which is perfect for when you don’t feel like hauling around a heavier camera and just want the ease of use of a point-and-shoot camera that one can just shoot from the hip.

Prior to setting out I searched the planet for Kodak Gold 200 and, like most of the rest of the film photographers, I came up empty. Instead, I opted for a couple of packages of Fujicolor Superia X-TRA 400.

What I found out is that this film does a very nice job of bringing out blues and greens, and will give you a nice reproduction of a subject even when the light is suboptimal. It also seems to pair nicely with the L35AF, like French wine and anything cooked with too much butter. Like French food, par exemple.

I’ve found, over the years, that getting to know a neighbourhood is not just about what the people look like, but what they do. And what better way to represent that than by getting photos of the small storefronts that house the small businesses that power the economies and culture of every district?

Right around the corner from our hotel, I spotted this man hard at work retouching garments in the late evening. Or, at least, one assumes as much from the name of the store and the clothes hanging in front. And, despite the fact that it has been surrounded by graffiti, it seems less like the walls around it have been defaced and more like the store has been perfectly framed with a representation of the attitude of the place where it lives.

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Wherever you are, you’ll find that a fruit-and-veg shop is always a great opportunity to find some colour. I’m a big fan of colourful awnings matched with clever displays and Paris had no shortage of either as you can see in the images below. The young fella in the second picture saw me lining up for the shot and struck a pose, flashing me a peace sign after I lowered the camera. He was not rude to me, and he did not pick my pocket. Excellent result!

These two photos are taken in a little more light than the others, and here we can really see the glass used in the L35AF start to shine. When used correctly, this little 35mm machine produces crystal-clear imagery that rivals my Canon FD lenses on even their best days.

My favourite of this group is the one below. The name of the store begs the question, where does one go when one needs to get their orgy fixed? As I was not in need of their services on this particular trip, I did not go inside, but it seemed to me as though grabbing a few bottles of wine would be enough to get any bacchanalian celebration back on the right track.

One of the things that often happens to me on a trip like this when shooting with the L35AF is that I’ll get several photos that turn out to be as blurry as the one below. It’s most likely less a failing of the camera than it is of mine. Setting the distance by making sure to slightly depress the shutter button until the correct distance is selected is quite simple. Actually remembering to do it every single time seems to be something I’m wholly incapable of.

Travelogue: Fujicolor in Paris on a Nikon L35AF - by Mark John Hiemstra
Travelogue: Fujicolor in Paris on a Nikon L35AF – by Mark John Hiemstra

But that said, I’m not altogether displeased with how this turned out, and it’s a lesson that film photography is an imperfect science mostly because of the photographer.

In all, I’m pleased with the results from this combination of camera and film. Shot in lower light, the 400 ISO Fujicolor seems to pick up the richness of the dark colours while still allowing for some good contrast and a pleasant grain. This set of photos seems to fall somewhere between “80s vacation photos taken by your dad” and “travelogue,” giving us enough insight to get a better understanding of Bellevile and the people who live there as told through their labour, proclivities and the services they deem to be most essential.

I’m also pleased to learn that the people of Paris are absolutely delightful, the streets (at least while we were there) are not always on fire, and in the words of Curtis Mayfield, everyone’s just tryin’ to get over, just like everywhere else.

~ Mark

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About the author

Avatar - Mark John Hiemstra

Mark John Hiemstra

Mark John Hiemstra is a professional writer and amateur photographer loves learning more and more about film photography every day. He is loathe to describe himself in the third person, but can be persuaded to do so, from time to time.

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  1. Hey – le repaire de Bacchus – Translates as “Bacchus’s Lair” or Den or hangout
    Nice photos!

  2. Mark, thanks for the article.Nice pics, good color.
    My dad was the family photographer, shooting lots of Kodachrome in his Argus C3. When 24 hour color neg. processing came along, we bought him this same Nikon P/S. He turned into a picture taking machine! Double prints for everyone! He was never without it by his side.
    A great camera that punched above its weight class.

    1. Hey, Castelli. That’s a lovely story. Being that person who recorded everything for the family was like being a shaman, capturing moments in time and ensuring that they last forever. Double prints for everyone should be on a t-shirt!

  3. I’ve browsed through a lot of photographic ‘travelogues’, and this is notably excellent. A relaxed and insightful discussion, excellent choice of subject matter, superb of the little Nikon. This is thoughtfully casual photography at its best. Thank you, Mark.

  4. Those are beautiful images and a very nicely written article.
    Under the circumstances, one can forgive the use of the third-person reference.