Ever since my documentary film-making days, I have held a fascination with 19th century photographs. So many of them are panoramic city-scapes that capture so much more detail than is initially realized. Usually, you take a quick look thinking you have seen the image. When you look more closely, you can see the imprint of people’s lives and consequences that bring the past alive.

I came across just such a photo of Paris.

During the Commune of 1871, which ultimately brought down Napoleon III, revolutionaries built barricades along the streets from which to defend their positions against the regime’s military. This picture of the Rue de Rivoli, which flanks the Louvre, was taken in the aftermath of the battle. (Click on the image to see a bigger copy of the image.)

The rue de Rivoli after the fights and the fires of the Paris Commune, Paris 4th arr. In the background, the hôtel de ville de Paris

I love the detail: the barrels in the foreground, the abandoned wagons in the street, the cobblestones piled up, the burned-out buildings, and the charred sign.

It is a great image of the past that captures a time and a place.