L’Eclipse, Avril 1912 (Atget)
They are all gone now. Millions of Parisians who interrupted their mid-week rituals to watch the moon briefly, but totally, mask the sun on 17 April 1912. Millions just like the ones the photographer Eugène Atget happened upon in front of the Bastille on that day, they are all gone now.
Yet, we still see them absorbed by that long-ago celestial moment. Shortly after Atget’s shutter clicked, they would return to their rituals. A bit later they would pick up the evening papers and find that another story had eclipsed their spectacle, the first reports of a giant ship Titanic that had sunk in the North Atlantic. We imagine their joy as a fleeting thing that day. But they are gone, and so we only imagine such things.
We watch them. Perhaps we envy them their innocent moment. But one of them, the dark-haired woman with a white flower in her hair who’s climbed onto the lamppost, she will have none of our envy, none of our pity. She alone gazes back at us, distracted from the eclipse by us. Is she not then most like us? Is she not as are we, already gone, yet, still here?