Catherine E. Clark

Catherine E. Clark is a cultural historian who specializes in nineteenth- and twentieth-century France and visual culture. She holds a Ph.D. in modern European history from the University of Southern California and is currently Assistant Professor of French Studies and Class of 1947 Career Development Professor in the department of Global Studies and Languages at MIT. 

"This was Paris in 1970:" Amateur Photographers and Parisian History


Paris’s Old and New Buildings, Citroën (factory), rue de [sic] Ginoux, 1970. Anonymous.(Bibliothèque historique de la Ville de Paris).

The Palmquist Foundation helped fund research about “C’était Paris en 1970,” an amateur photo contest organized by the FNAC, the city of Paris, and the ORTF (Office de radiodiffusion-télévision française). Its goal was to produce a historical archive of the city over the course of one month. Some 15,000 eager photographers signed up, and they submitted 100,000 Parisian views. My work has resulted in the first history of the contest. I asked how these amateurs had seen the city during a period of major reconstruction as old neighborhoods were torn down, industry moved to the suburbs, and skyscrapers and highways were built. I also explored how participants had understood the photograph’s capacity to document history: how did they capture the past, present, and future of Paris through the camera’s lens? Ultimately their pictures tell us just as much about how they imagined the photo might one day serve researchers as about what Paris looked like in 1970. Thanks to subsequent funding, I continued this research which has resulted in a peer-reviewed article and several talks. It is also part of my forthcoming book about the history of documenting, exhibiting, writing, and imagining the Parisian past in photographs. 

Resulting publications: 

Paris and the Cliché of History: The City and Photographs, 1870-1970 [forthcoming] 

“‘C’était Paris en 1970:’ Urbanism, Amateur Photography, and Photographic History,” trans. Jean-François Allain, Études photographiques, n° 31 (Spring 2014), p86-113. 


Invited talk: “Le photographe amateur et les archives du quotidien: Paris, 1970” (in French with simultaneous Japanese translation), Approches du quotidien au Japon et en Occident, Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo, Japan, December 5-6, 2015

Invited talk: “‘This was Paris in 1970:’ The Amateur Photographer and the Archive,” History Department, University of Toronto, November 19, 2015

Invited talk: “This was France in 1970?:” Documenting Paris, Documenting the Nation,” France in Flux: The Topographic Turn in Contemporary French Culture, Workshop held at the University of London in Paris, July 6-7, 2015

Roundtable participant: “Traces d’un Paris inconnu / Un autre regard sur Paris” Bibliothèque historique de la Ville de Paris for the exhibition Paris champ & hors champ, Paris, October 14, 2014

Invited talk: “‘This was Paris in 1970:’ The Amateur Photographer and the Archive,” Sahin Lecture, History Department, MIT, September 12, 2014

Conference Paper: “‘C’était Paris en 1970:’ Amateur Photographers in a War Against Forgetting,” Society for French Historical Studies, Montreal, Canada, April 24-26, 2014

Invited talk: “‘C’était Paris en 1970:’ Amateur Photography, Urbanism, and Photographic History,” Department of Art, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma, February 17, 2012