Saturday, 4 April 2009

The 4am Project

What’s your view at 4am? This is the question asked by Karen Strunks, freelance photographer and organiser of the 4am Project. She has decided "to gather a collection of photos from around the world at the magical time of 4am...to see what you see at that moment in time on that one day". 4am on the 4th day of the 4th month.

4am is the dead hour, the time of the day that sees the highest percentage of deaths. These are mostly people who take their last breath in the deepest part of their sleep, so perhaps I'm better off outside in the streets than in my warm bed. 4am - a very strange time in Paris. Paris is not a 24 hour city, and this is almost certainly the quietest moment of the day. At 6am, the Metro begins again and cars start filling the streets. The boulangerie spills light out into the street and the city wakes up again, but at 4am everything is shut and quiet. What could be more invisible than the city at this time?

At least that's what I thought. The reality is a brightly illuminated world, steady with a trickle of laughing groups wandering home and a constant rumble of taxis. A blackbird begins the dawn chorus whilst poor unfortunates get what sleep they can in doorways. It is surprisingly warm, 13° which I'm happy about, but not as much as the man under his thin blanket.

At the Marché du Boulevard de la Villette, one brave market stand holder is setting up for the day. Around him, the only other people are the Chinese walkers, young women selling the only commodity they have left. Shady looking men approach but it is certainly not a scene I want to catch on camera. Back to Belleville, and a city of Paris electronic information board. I need to get the photo whilst 4.00 is displayed. As 3.59 ticks over, the message turns to a warning about high pollution levels. Time to get a quick picture then hop back into bed - although I'm not sure where it is safest to breathe anymore!

12 comments:

martha said...

Hi Adam, Thank you so much for that. What a beautiful photo essay about an almost unseen face of your city.
When I still lived in NYC, more than 25 years ago, I loved to walk through the cast iron fortresses of Soho, or ride the Staten Island Ferry back and forth until the sun came up.

I love the underbellies, the almost dream sides of cities. Your photos reminded me of someone I used to be.

Starman said...

It's too bad they didn't do something live on the internet. 04h00 in Paris is only 10h00 here. I would have liked to take part. Perhaps you can mention that to the organizers for the next project.

Starman said...

Well, there is the France Today webcam at 04h00, but it's not the same.
http://www.francetoday.com/

Adam said...

Hi Starman,

The organiser of this event lives in Birmingham in the UK, and the 4am principle relates to the time wherever you may be. To take part, you just need to be up taking photos at 4am local time wherever you may be. You could probably do it tonight still!

Tim said...

Found it quite apt that when I read your item it had generated four comments... but I think I may have messed that up for you now.

Shows real commitment to the task at hand to be out at 4am!

Gina V said...

Every time I arrive in Paris, due to jet-lag, 4 am is my magic hour for 2 or 3 nights!...I am wide awake and ravenous and ready for PARIS!! Perhaps on my next trip, I will prowl the neighbourhood with my camera instead, but accompanied by a burly bodyguard!

Did you not find it oddly liberating, and yet a little surreptitious, to have the streets to yourself at this darkest of hour before dawn??...I like the idea of this project though, and you were truly game to participate so willingly!

Adam said...

Hi Gina - I quite enjoyed it as it's always good to do things that shift you even a fraction outside of your normality. However, I found it far from quiet and I wasn't alone at all (I do live in Belleville though). The essential structure of the city is asleep, but there is still plenty of life at 4am!

martha said...

Adam, I'm not surprised you live in Belleville. It is one of my favourite parts of Paris.

Gina V said...

Speaking of Belleville, I once fell in love with a celadon green building on the romantically named Rue des Solitaires [No. 18, I believe] near the Place des Fêtes, and wrote an essay about the area [posted a while ago on my ZYGOSPHERE site]...but I somehow missed the Cité du Palais Royal de Belleville. Have you done any research on that enclave? And I think I would also like to check out the Cimitière de Belleville and the neighbourhood around there as well this time.

Squirrel said...

To get my 4 am snapshot I think I'd walk into the heart of my village where there's some light and maybe a big fat raccoon sauntering up Main Street, looking for food trash. Maybe I'll do this for my blog once in a while.

ArtSparker said...

Play for grownups - staying up late.

t78ugy said...

Well, you didn't pick the right place to look at 4am. I'm pretty sure the Pigalle district is 24-hour and never sleeps.

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