Having grown up in the suburban crossroads between farmland and strip malls that is Northern Virginia, the move to Paris was dizzying, to say the least. I entered the city a little too confident of both my French proficiency and my ability to navigate the almost mythic metropolis. It was delectably exhausting to spend nearly every day tasting rich cheeses, scuttling through labyrinths of metro stations, and marveling at renowned monuments, while I could only understand 70 percent of the language. One aspect that epitomizes Paris’s identity is its relationship to the Eiffel Tower. They are quasi synonymous for each other. It is possible to see the Iron Lady from every neighborhood in Paris, given the right elevation or angle; you don’t really have to be close to the tower to witness its bold and heavy armature crisscrossing the sky. Because of this presence, I dare say that everyone who has visited Paris has their own anecdote about the Eiffel Tower, and admittedly, one of my own favorite memories is a little stereotypical.
It’s no secret that I live for romantic comedies, so it was no surprise when, after less than a month in Paris, I told my host family that I had met a French man and that we were going on a date…to the top of the Eiffel Tower. The view from the sommet of the tower, one of the tallest structures in Paris, was incredible—the Seine glazed by the yellow city lights; the bulbous spires of Sacré-Coeur swathed in their signature emerald green glow; and beyond the city limits, the shadowy hills of the suburbs that both seem to cradle the city center. With the September wind tousling the scarves, hair, and jackets of the tourists around me, I felt incredibly satisfied, having fulfilled the dream that American students of French desire.
Yet the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower is a little disappointing, because it lacks one thing—the Eiffel Tower itself. It should be obvious, but I found it strange to see all of Paris without its most famous landmark, the monument that reminds you that you are in Paris. It is for this reason that I prefer this photo, the one I took from below, the one that didn’t cost me 16 euros for an 81-story elevator ride. This was one of those views that surprised me as I walked through the streets in Paris—there are so many exciting things to see at ground level that I never realized I was practically next to the Eiffel Tower until the glint of steel caught my eye. Personally, I was so focused on gathering information for my Parisian architecture class and keeping my eye out for somewhere to get a snack that, when I turned the corner, I was astonished to see the Eiffel Tower hovering over me. I loved the way the graceful form of the tower was amplified by my low angle and I noticed how the perspective of the residential buildings on either side of the street echoed the tower’s triangular shape. I saw the little wisp of sky off the pinnacle of the tower, reminiscent of a flag waving in high winds, and I quickly took the picture before the clouds concealed the patch again.
At home, I worked on editing the photo. Since I wanted to highlight the juxtaposition between the buildings and the almost white sky, as well as to draw attention to the delicate and heavy angles of the tower, I chose to filter the photo with black and white. To this day, I’m pleased with the final product because the dwarfing perspective is still powerful enough to make me remember all of those times when I would be going about my day only to unintentionally turn onto the right street, look out of the right window, walk up the right hill, and be reminded that I am in Paris.
Rosemary is from Northern Virginia and transferred to Smith from a large co-ed school on Long Island. At home, Rosemary has a 5-year-old pug named Boo Radley who loves visiting Smith and romping around the gardens on Upper Elm. Rosemary spent the academic year of 2016-2017 studying at the Sorbonne through the Smith in Paris program and hopes to go to graduate school where she will specialize in Shakespeare.by