Hippolyte Bayard arrived in Paris by early 1825 in the company of his childhood friend Edmond Geffroy. Like many others during the Bourbon Restoration (1814-1830), they left the provinces in search of opportunities in the capital. Geffroy came in pursuit of a career as an actor. While Bayard may have harbored artistic aspirations of his own, he soon went to work at the Ministry of Finance.
By early 1839, Bayard had begun experimenting with light-sensitive chemicals in search of ways to fix an image from nature on paper. He immersed himself in this nascent technology/art form that was soon to be called “photography,” all the while maintaining his job as a bureaucrat.
As the population of Paris continued to grow through the 1830s under King Louis-Philippe, Paris extended its reach beyond the city walls to places like Batignolles-Monceau and Montmartre, resulting in numerous building projects. Many Parisian civil servants, such as Bayard, and eventually artists as well, gravitated toward these more affordable areas. Over the next decade, Bayard documented the transformation of his adopted city with his camera. He made many images right in his own neighborhood of Batignolles-Monceau. In many cases he chose to turn his camera on the quotidian scenes of relatively humble buildings undergoing repair or renovation. (See also: 84.XO.968.89 and 84.XO.968.152).
Bayard made this image from a vantage point above street level (probably from a second floor window across the street) so that the viewer looks down upon the worker who stands before a metal grill. The broken panes in the second floor window and the dark void behind them are striking for their geometric forms and for the mystery of what lies behind them.
Carolyn Peter, J. Paul Getty Museum, Department of Photographs
For further information about Bayard’s interest in the changing Parisian landscape see: Nancy Keeler, “Hippolyte Bayard aux origines de la photographie et de la ville moderne,” La Recherche Photographique, no. 2 (May 1987): 6-17.