This is how I 'read' Atget and his work. When I am photographing somewhere with a long historical record I inevitably think of what the place was witness to.Many of his pictures seem to have been taken at a time when human presence had to be "posed" to be there. Any kind of road traffic would have come out easily blurred. That's a possible reason, but probably not the only one.
I understand very much his approach, and I feel him very near to my own way of seeing things. When you begin taking photographs of roads, buildings, the moment comes when "human presence" becomes like a distracting nuisance. You want the building to talk. It's as if those buildings had a story to tell, or actually many stories of the countless people who walked there, through maybe centuries, each of them with his own troubles in life, or joyous moments maybe.
If buildings could talk, they would tell us a lot of human stories. You don't need the human presence, because that would limit the human presence to that person, or that couple passing there at the moment.
It's the building the talking presence. Old towns with centuries-old streets, the perspective and appearance of which has basically not changed in centuries, raise on me a definite fascination. That's why I love Rome so much. It's not only the monuments. It's that you look a foreshortening and you imagine the countless people for whom that foreshortening was the usual walk to workplace, or the workplace itself. And how many thoughts might have accompanied those human presence there, love, fear, joy associated to that place. The parvis of a church, which is a parvis for me, was "workplace" and day companion for countless beggars of all epochs. It's you who put the beggar there, or the young couple who discussed marriage on those steps. The parvis is the subject, the life which flowed over it is the arrière-pensée raised by it.
The building known as Pointe Trigano, a very narrow building which is the subject of some pictures by Atget, is the building where André Chénier lived when he was arrested during the Terror. Besides telling us this particular story, obviously other unknown stories could be told by this pre-revolutionary building. Precisely the absence of people make our mind wonder about all the people that have lived there or in the vicinity and for whom that building was a familiar feature.
Empty outdoor restaurant tables invariably reminds to me the eternal flow of conversation those tables heard, and all those they are going to hear.
Pointe Trigano below