The Camera You've Been Looking for
is Here

If It Isn't and You've Got a Friend,
Get a Buddy-Bike Instead

Paris:- Wednesday, 24. April 1996:- There are about 5,200 public and private boulevards, streets, passages, and alleys in Paris. There are people must have been on all of them I imagine - given enough time and keeping careful score - but everybody has their favorites even if they have not tried them all.

Aside from 'Paris of the Villages' there is also a Paris of the specialties; streets where, for one reason or another, there is a particular atmosphere or a particular kind of business conducted. One such street is the Boulevard Beaumarchais.

It starts in the south at Boulevard Richard Lenoir or Bastille, with the 11th arrondissement on the right, and runs for 750 metres through to place de la République with the 4th and 3rd arrondissements on the left. This boulevard replaced the city wall of Charles V and was first called boulevard Saint-Antoine. In 1831 it was renamed after the actor, Caron de Beaumarchais, who had a monster Italian-style mansion built by Le Moine at the Bastille end. Beaumarchais died in 1799 and the city bought the property in 1818 and demolished the residence, in order to open up the canal Saint-Martin.

Monsieur Cipiere (13k)
His grandfather founded firm,
Michel Cipière carries on.
[Permission to use image
granted by Michel Cipière]
A few doors further on, in the same block, a shop was opened in 1888 by Mr. Cipière, who dealt in photographic materials. That shop became three, and this afternoon at number 26, I met Michel Cipière, grandson of the original proprietor. His father had taken over the business in 1920, his turn came in 1957 - and Cipière Fils IV will be coming along soon.

Now, what makes the boulevard interesting, is that over the past 40 years 11 other shops selling all sorts of photo equipment and services have installed themselves here. Although competition is fierce, it makes sense to be located in the same area - because good shops draw customers from the entire Paris region to one place. For the customers, it is a dream, because it is possible to compare prices by merely window-shopping from one end to the other; but also because many of the shops have used equipment and a hard-to-find items must be here, someplace.

The shops specialize somewhat: 35mm, medium format, large format, every sort of equipment and accessories, professional laboratories, motion picture, and now video - and soon to arrive, digital video.
Camera shop window (18k)
Camera not on display,
captures window-shoppers for cameras.
Mr. Cipière himself, with three branches in the same block, covers several areas: 35mm, pro lab, professional equipment, and even has a collector's section in a cellar. Looking around at the professional gear at number 26, I noted a Gowland 13 x 18 'Aero' with a Zircon 5.6/210mm lens and a whole display case full of every sort of Linhof 'press' cameras. This is the kind you see used in 'newspaper' movies made up until about 1955.

When I arrived today, out of the métro at Bastille, I intended to cruise the entire boulevard - and it was only accident - and placement - that turned me into Cipière Photo first. So I was a bit pressed after a long chat with Mr. Cipière, to head north towards place de la République, between rain showers. Every window drew my attention - do Leicas still cost as much? - answer: oh yes. Maybe this window has a 55mm macro that I have been wanting for years - here is another window with a half-dozen Minox's, that cost more than they did new. Sigh.

These shops all sell the newest autofocus motor-drive auto-exposure models, but at least a third of every sidewalk window is full of yesterday's cameras, lenses, and accessories. A place for crazies! The plain ordinary Nikon F that I bought new in 1968 for $300 is still worth that in francs - but neither camera, dollars nor francs are worth what they were then.
Strange tandem (20k)
Bicycle built for two unrideable by one;
where else but from Holland?
In 750 metres,the boulevard Beaumarchais is not just camera shops - in a place set half a block back, two-thirds of the way up, is the Cirque d'Hiver, and it is worth aiming a camera at, if you have a wide-angle lens. There are also a couple of motorcycle shops, a shop that sells odd bicycles called Cycl'Art - they have circus bicycles - and the video equipment shops with their expanding computer departments. Across the boulevard from Cipière Photo there is a big musical instrument store - another one with three doors, from electrical keyboards to acoustical guitars, with sheet music in between.

I am going to 'save' place de la République for another feature - so back at Bastille, after you've walked all that way, and maybe your wallet is lighter and your bag is heavier, and you are happy with the excursion, there are really a lot of fine-looking restaurants concentrated on the place.

At Bastille, it being that kind of place, there is a restaurant there that'll feed you, no matter what time it is. So no need to hurry, when you come for a look at the boulevard Beaumarchais.


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