Paris: Backdrops for Photo-ops with Peter and Riley Brack
By Theadora Brack
Celebrating photographer Man Ray’s upcoming August 27th birthday, let’s trip the de-light fantastique in Paris with two of my favorite photographers in the world, Peter and Riley Brack. First, though, let me offer a bit of full disclosure: they’re among my favorites not only because they’re my cousins but also because they’re both great lensmen and adventurers, as you’ll soon see.
During the final leg of their recent month-long European expedition, this dream team documented the rues of Paris without rest, capturing the city with infectious zeal and zest. Their portraits coolly mesh old with new, fully embracing a sacred new Proustian world of dynamic, overlapping, ever-changing juxtapositions.
As Man Ray once wisely put it, “To create is divine.” I couldn’t agree more.
Peter and Riley set the scene.
Exciting and New
“On the first night, I could have imagined a lightning bolt striking us with how fast I realized this was only the beginning!” Peter says.
“We were supposed to visit St. Johns, Newfoundland and then Reykjavik, Iceland. Unfortunately, due to icebergs, we had to adjust course, crossing the Atlantic on a seven-day journey to Stavanger, instead. Along the way, we spotted dolphins and whales. Once we arrived, it was cold. We knew the best activity was to get on a boat and see those legendary fjords! Enduring high winds and cold mist, we traveled on a two-hour tour through some beautiful fjords. Such an amazing experience!”
Two brothers. Thirty days. Seven countries. Planes, trains, automobiles . . . ships, too, along with plenty of boot leather.
Fully embracing Antoine de St. Exupery’s “He who would travel happily must travel light” philosophy, Riley and Peter left the suitcases at home, and instead carried lightweight backpacks and Eurail Global Passes as they journeyed from hostel to hostel, making beaucoup friends along the trail (including, they told me, the occasional friendly, bell-garbed cow as well).
“We shared a magical Parisian moment when a man heard me singing en route to the Louvre, upon which we walked together for twenty minutes or so talking about the greats of Jazz. He sang some of ‘All of Me’ [Seymour Simons and Gerald Marks, 1931]. He didn’t have many teeth, but he had a warm heart and lovely voice, “ Riley said.
After launching their Grand Tour in New York City, destinations included Stavanger and Oslo, Norway, then Copenhagen, and Dusseldorf and Freiburg, Germany. From there, they wandered to Amsterdam, then Grindelwald and Murren in Switzerland, then Bruges in Belgium. And Paris, of course!
“We had wonderful and hilarious moments throughout Paris. It was a great place for people-watching and people embracing. I felt absorbed in the end. It was hard to part with this magical place that beats all other attempts in the world to create magic, like theme parks and eyesore tourist attractions. Paris was a finale to our excursion like no other. More important was the fact that Riley and I could be brothers in a way we never could be as kids. Completely as adults! The experience taught me so much about family and even more about myself.”
“Between our many train rides, all those midnight cobblestoned wanderings and gift-of-the-moment impulses to get off the train in some town not on our itinerary showed me how much of a champion of flexibility my little brother is. Peter greeted every setback, delay and serendipitous moment with optimism and patience,” Riley said, and then paused.
“My admiration for him has grown immensely on our brotherly Eurotrip. Getting to cross the Atlantic and visit seven different countries with your little brother over the course of a month is about as rad as it sounds, especially when he’s as awesome as Peter.”
Pinching from Antoine de Saint-Exupery again, “True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new.”
Thanks for sharing your zest, heart and photographs, Peter and Riley!