A Dark Paris Past: Abandoned Human Zoo in Vincennes Woods
Abandoned places are just my thing. This one has been on my list for awhile after my mom discovered it on the inter-workings of the web and finding new [and bizarre] things for us to see in beautiful Paris.
In a nutshell: in the late 19th and early 20th century there was a trend of having ‘Colonial Exhibitions’ that displayed wonders of exotic places in the world without having to travel to remote locations. This included bringing in wildlife, recreating architecture + [horrifyingly] native people. In short, human zoos.
These were very popular and took place all around the world to promote education and as a form of odd entertainment. Paris included.
There were an estimated two million people that visited the exhibition when it was opened from May to October 1907 in the corner of the woods in Vincennes. Visitors were able to see what life was like in Tunisia, Morocco, Congo, Madagascar, and the Sudan colonies. Replica villages were created, indigenous plants and animals were shipped in as well as about people recruited from all the above regions. They were paid, but not very well and were misled as to what they would actually be doing in France. After the exhibits closed many of the people were unknowingly put into touring shows of similar purpose and many died of diseases and went into lives of agony unable to get back home.
There are tons of great articles and old photos online if you want to read more.
I have some photos from my visit there just a few weeks ago. Today it is open to the public seven days a week though few dare to enter. The Jardin d’Agronomie Tropicale, as its called today is hauntingly beautiful and a tragic, quiet reminder of a dark piece of French history. This is one of the only exhibitions still standing in the world.
It is creepy + worth the visit.
All shot on Lilly the Leica (M240) with 50mm Summicron f/1.4
When I’m not seeking out abandoned places I also shoot Weddings + Wonderful People all over the world!