Subterranean Paris (Pont au Change)

Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (French, 1820–1910)


Image/Sheet: 24.8 x 19.6 cm (9 3/4 x 7 11/16 in.) Mount: 43.6 x 34 cm (17 3/16 x 13 3/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Photograph, albumen print

Not On View


Europe, Photography



Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, known as Nadar, was one of the most prominent French photographers of his day, best known for his penetrating portraits of Second Empire celebrities. He was also an intrepid photographic experimenter, the first to attempt both aerial photography and, as early as 1858, underground photography, using reflectors and electric light generated by Bunsen batteries. Nadar’s 1864-65 photographs of the newly renovated sewers of Paris reveal a silent, vaulted city echoing the animated new Paris rising aboveground in the urban renewal projects of Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann. In this image, a network of underground tracks converges at the Pont au Change. Nadar’s composition plunges us deep into the silent tunnels, where his artificial light illuminates the technology of underground engineering while the mystery and drama of an older subterranean world loom beyond its reach.


Vision Gallery, Boston; purchased September 1984.

Credit Line

Charles Amos Cummings Fund