Italian Trulli Philippe Barbe

I am not a serious photographer. Since this is my personal website, this page is less about my pictures, than about why I am taking them and what interests me in photography.

I spent some time in the past working on pictures with a non-digital camera and black and white films. When digital came, I had other priorities, and never bought a good digital camera. When phones became good cameras, my interest in photography came back, in a different way, and I can see myself getting more serious about it in the future. For now, all what I am using is my cell phone, mostly because I do not want to carry more equipment.

The following pictures have been sometimes cropped, but their colors are the original ones. As I indicated, they are intended not as a exhibition, but as a way to tell why I take pictures.

I take pictures for various reasons, but my pleasure of taking them derives from being able to see a richer world by focusing on some of its details. The poet Francis Ponge wrote J’écris pour ajouter au monde quelque chose qui l’augmente (I write to add to the world something that increases it). This is very much the way I feel about taking picture: it adds to the world that I perceive by forcing me to look at it differently.

While on the face of the picture, this addition may seem about what is pictured, it is sometimes about the people for whom I take them.

My friend Brian was born in the United States, knows his country very well, is well traveled within, but never went outside. His curiosity is boundless though. Because I traveled and still travel a fair amount in Europe and Asia, he asked me to show him what these places look like. I take picture of places for him. I cannot remember how, but Carol joined Brian in asking pictures. So I take pictures for Brian and Carol!

image-title-here I take pictures of undescript places. Often for no other reason that they are undescript and would be otherwise unoticed. It expresses the daily reality of people. But once they are pictured, these places become different for we tend to project an intent. The eye searches something, the mind asks questions. The undescript becomes mysterious: what is this store, what is the smell in this street, who are these people, what are they doing, where are they going, is it their usual way to dress…?
A street in Hong Kong. There is no sidewalk along this street. The elevated walkway ensure the safety of pedestrians. One of the challenges of self-driving cars is how to ensure safety as they share infrastructure with pedestrians. Self-driving airplanes, with autopilots, have been around for a long time. So are self-driven metros and trains. The reason is that they have a dedicated infrastructure which reduces the variability of what the software needs to respond to. Parts of Hong Kong seem perfect to make self-driving cars a reality, because they would have a dedicated infrastructure. image-title-here
image-title-here Sometimes I feel a need to conform. If I am in Paris walking, I should send at least one picture that confirms expectations! I also acknowledge that the expectation is right: it is a very nice view on the Seine river and some of the adjacent buildings.
Train station in Paris. Where are people going? Interesting mix of an 1900 railroad station architecture designed for steam engine trains, with the modern TGV. What do people wear? What colors are their cloths? How much information is communicated on all the displays in the station, to which everyone seems to add their own information through mobile technology? image-title-here
image-title-here Another train station, in a rural area of France. The train is comming. On the other platform, one person sits, waiting for another train. The station is empty. Little towns are surviving, fighting for the train to keep operating.
I also share with Brian and Carol my interest for architecture, as in this picture of the city hall of Shenzhen in China. I am not trying to take a particularly nice picture that could be featured in a magazine, but just communicate what I see. That picture however fails at rendering the feeling that the size produces. This building is massive, yet amazingly graceful with its comparatively thin undulating roof. image-title-here

There are plenty of things to picture in Paris. Brian and Carol have seen many street pictures over the years. I thought that I could give them a different feeling for the city by sending them pictures about a single topic, which would force me to look more closely to that topic and see the city differently. One such topic was doors and gates, which are under the same name porte in French.

It turns out that doors and gates are amazingly diverse in Paris. But picturing them created interesting questions on their purpose.

This large gate opens one of the university. It is a particularly long structure, that can go down and completely disapear. It has various doors in it, of various sizes. It is a serious barrier, in heavy steal, preventing to enter when needed, opening a wide and welcoming plazza when lowered. Its purpose is clear: prevent entrance. Yet, it fits the need of an academic institution to be open on the outside, for everyone to see inside.


Overall, I found doors of unversities to be really interesting in revealing the ambivalence of the faculty toward restricting access.

These doors are quite typical of many official buildings. They belong to a high school. The triptych allows for France’s motto Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity) to be placed at the top of each part, marking the official nature of the building. The triptych also marks the importance of those who enter. The usual entrance is by one of the small doors. If you go by the middle door with a single panel open, you are certainly a noticeable guest. And if both panels are open, then you must be an important person fulfilling an important mission. Doors mark not only the entrance but also the status of those who come in. object

Craftsmen took great pride in embelishing doors. Some have a lot of meaning in their embelishments, such as that on the left which belongs to the Sainte Geneviève library: Sainte Geneviève is represented, as well as wreaths symbolizing knowledge

door door door door

Usually doors match the facade of the building. By their look, some indicate clearly what sort of building they give access to. They may also have other functions. This door is clearly that of an industrial building, let the light to come in, yet we cannot see inside. object
door The architectural style and the stain glasses at the top of the doors indicate a church. It is of roman style, but the stone is too regular to be from the 12th century or so. The outside architecture of this church is interesting in the sense that it makes it looking as much as a church as possible.
Yet, inside, Notre Dame du Travail reveals it was built in early 20th century and celebrates the workers of the time. While the door and overall exterior architecture indicates clearly the purpose of the building, they give no indication on the architectural style inside. door

The doors here are a small sample of the many I pictured. I was surprised not only by their diversity, but also by how much there is to say on each of them, their form, function, location, symbolism…

Emptyness raises self-awareness and the feeling of being in the world. Where are the others?

image-title-here Road in the desert. This emptyness does not exist in Europe. But the road is a negation of the desert: it is built because people come here. I also like how lines converge to the focal point on the horizon. It is in fact surprising how many lines there are in the desert, to which humans add further lines.
Illusion of the desert, since I went there! These places remind me some of the pictures from Mars. This may be as close as I can get to experiencing the view on Mars! image-title-here
image-title-here If it weren’t for the water and the blue sky indicating a particular atmosphere, maybe this could be on any planet…
Some places are unexpectedly empty. This metro train in Shenzhen is empty. Out of context, there is a form of absurdy in this infrastructure being unused. But Shenzhen is a city of migrants, empty around the Chinese new year. This train would be full at most other time of the year, and this picture all but represents how vibrant the city is! image-title-here
image-title-here Emptyness reveals interesting patterns. What would usually appear as light from the ceiling are becoming like ligthenings guiding you through the horizontality of the metro corridor.
Emptyness reveals the size of these corridors. Endless! but proportional to the size of the city (13-14 million people) and its metropolitan area (24-25 million people). The light guides the flow from the sky, taking you there, further… image-title-here

My friend Joseph who studied photography seriously told me that photography is about light. Sometimes I take pictures just because of the light, not so much because the light is stunning, but because it forces me to realize it and think about it. Photography for me is a way to look at the world and appreciate its beauty.

boats boats canal

Classical painters did not make up some of the most stunning skies they painted!

sky sky

Sometimes, places, light and people come together! Extroardinary moments were the world takes an increadible beauty, and precious shared memories!

coast coast

coast coast

Architectural details like these staircases show the imagination and aesthetic of craftsmen in designing something utterly practical.

stairs stairs

I enjoy architecture that shows creativity. The Versailles palace is an example of its time. I tend to picture buildings of our time, with a preference for horizontality over verticality, and simplicity over convolution. I also like surprising structures.

building building

Some structures are appealing because of their bold ambition.

building building

Interior architecture can mix simplicity of lines with the complexity of what it tends to hide. But the aesthetic sometimes promotes dust collection!

building building

And like anyone else, I also capture older buildings to be able to communicate to others what I have seen.


Objects are all around us. Decorative arts are an endless source of wonder that brightens everyday life. I find very moving that humans have this desire for aesthetic in objects that we use every day. This aesthetic search makes every day objects exceptional, changing their function from being used every day to being used in special occasions. Beyond capturing their beauty, picturing them is a way to express my admiration for those who design them.

object object

Some old objects show that this search for aesthetic is ingrained in us. It is also sometimes stunning how simple tools in the hand of trained craftsmen allow to create perfect objects, everywhere in the world.

object object object

Tables and desks, because of their size, cannot get the special occasion function of smaller pieces.

table table table table

Chairs may be the most difficult pieces to design, for they need to be comfortable and not create back problems. Some are designed for homes, and some are designed for public spaces; the difference may be only through the material used, but it can also be through the shape. The curved sofa is interesting because it starts with a simple yet clever pattern, and turns it to create a volume. I truely admire designers who come up with these clever ideas.

table table

Some artists with amazing imagination create totally new objects, not painting, not sculpture, hard to define, but so beautiful, transforming what would be an ordinary place into an exhibition gallery, able to use the most modern and unatural materials to allude to the most ancient and natural themes.


In its ownm way, mathematics is a study of conceptual formulations of nature. Mathematical objects are every day objects, abstracted.

Partial differential equations govern fluid dynamics, modeling the patterns seen in these two pictures.

object object

Elementary and differential geometries model light patterns.

object object

When winter combines fluid dynamics and geometry, interesting textures result!

object object object

Plant growth is a complicated matter. Some differential equations model growth, some stochastic processes model cracking.


object object object

Some models of growth may be used to describe moss, random fields may model complex terrains.

object object

Tesselations appear naturally, and various models exists, using partial differential equations, stochastic aggregations and other mathematical objects. Add a simple stone to it, and the physical wonder takes an aesthetic quality. Asking why this stone is there amounts to a vast questionning of the world around us, a perception of its complex beauty, a search for purpose.


Erosion deposit processes have also been modeled.

object object

But nature keeps us wondering…

object object

And when humans give their view of nature, they may take an every day cardbox and create a mysterious forest… making us rethinking what is a real forest.


I like to experiment with things, and repurpose them.

The camera on my phone has a landscape function. The software tracks components of the image and glue them together as one rotates the camera. This allows for 360 degree (or less) pictures.

But that can be repurposed… tricked to track the wrong thing and distort reality. If you fight against the software by moving the camera in a way that the sky is seemingly the only thing that can be tracked, then your world collapses with that of the software designer, creating a collision of two planets! What does it say on us that we still recognize the blue of the sky?

object object