The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

The Ministry of Finance

The Ministry of Finance

A cabinet card showing the ruins of the Ministry of Finance on the Rue de Rivoli.

The Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune left large areas of Paris and its suburbs in ruins. Many Parisian photographers, notably Hippolyte-Auguste Collard, Hippolyte Blancard, Bruno Braquehais, Pierre Émonts, Alphonse Liébert, Eugène Disdéri, Auguste Muriel, J. Andrieu, and E. Durand, saw the commercial opportunity offered by these evocative and emotive ruins, and various series of views of the destruction swiftly appeared on the market. For those who had not been present, and for those who were unable to visit the ruins, these photographs served as a means to share the experience. They also served as a tool of political propaganda, since the considerable damage was blamed, albeit tacitly, on the Germans and the Communards, regardless of the fact that much of the worst of it had been inflicted by the French government itself while fighting the Communards. The Commune, moreover, had been savagely suppressed, and the memory of La Semaine Sanglante weighed heavily on the collective conscience of the middle-class. Photography, still considered by most to be a faithful and objective witness, showed, at least for those predisposed to view the images from that perspective, the desolation wrought by the Communards and justified the means-to-an-end taken by the government in order to regain control.

Photographer unidentified.


Code: 126745
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© Paul Frecker 2018