Bright Silence: a Stunning Project Documenting Paris Cafés During Lockdown

by Lisa Anselmo

When cafés were forced to close as part of an effort to stop the spread of Covid-19, the sight of stacked chairs behind locked glass doors broke the hearts of Parisians. But artist Geoffrey Guillin saw something different: a beauty in the stillness of a city in lockdown mirrored in its cafés, which are at the center of Paris life.

Disused terrace chairs; a calendar frozen on the date of the last service before forced closures. ©Geoffrey Guillin

In his newest series of 44 photographs called Bright Silence, Guillin documents café closures during confinement, but also tells the story of Parisian lives very much on pause. Shot entirely through the windows of closed cafés, these haunting images with their soft light and shallow depth of field, present a dreamlike portrait of abandoned rooms suspended in time. Reflections of a troubled outside world are superimposed over calm that has been carefully preserved and protected behind glass. These convivial places seem to retain their lightness despite their emptiness.

“I took these photos to show the bright soul of cafés,” Guillin says, “and how important the details of the decoration affect our well-being when we are there.” Undoubtedly, it’s a story told in details: coffee cups hastily stacked; empty water decanters lining a bar; a calendar frozen on 14 March, the last day cafés were open for service.

“I wanted to show the intensity and the luminosity of these places so dear to us, and our cultural heritage.”

Hastily stacked coffee cups; cheerful posters await the return of customers. ©Geoffrey Guillin

The images stir emotion, yet are not maudlin. Guillin lets the cafés and their details speak for themselves without manipulating the viewer. “I wanted to show the intensity and the luminosity of these places so dear to us, and our cultural heritage.”

In showcasing the quiet details of these restaurants, making them glimmer and glow like jewels, Guillin exalts the everyday café—and lifts the viewer’s spirit the way cafés themselves do. “A café is a refuge when you are feeling sick at heart. It’s also a symbol of life,” Guillin says. “So, yes, [this work] represents the heartbeat of Paris, where friends can meet, love, forget, laugh, cry—but above all, feel alive.”

Reflections tell the story of two worlds: the reality of a city in lockdown superimposed over calm perfectly preserved. ©Geoffrey Guillin

VIEW THE COMPLETE PHOTO EXHIBIT AT GEOFFREYGUILLIN.COM
Follow Geoffrey Guillin on Instagram.

©Geoffrey Guillin

LISA ANSELMO is a writer, branding expert, speaker, and coach, and has worked at such iconic American magazines as Allure, InStyle, and People. She is the author of My (Part-Time) Paris Life: How Running Away Brought Me Home, (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press), and has been featured in New York magazine, Travel and Leisure, Bustle, House Hunters International, Expatriates Magazine among others.
Discover her blog and book
Subscribe to her Youtube channel
Follow her on
Instagram | Facebook | Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.