La Petite Ceinture is an unused railroad track in Paris, France. In By the Silent Line, Pierre Folk photographs the abandoned railway, in order to maintain a record of the tracks’ current condition and to show how our society deals with remnants that are left from changes in industry and technology. The photos in this series were taken in large format using a 4×5 view camera.
La Petite Ceinture (or Chemin de fer de Petite Ceinture) was created in 1852 as a way to connect the lines of France’s five competing railways within the city of Paris. The railroad has not had passenger service since 1934, though freight service continued in some areas until the early 1990s.
“Oddly enough, it hasn’t gone to wrack and ruin as the infrastructure has been maintained in condition. As a river, its shores constantly change over time, but it persists,” says Folk in the artist’s statement, “The vestige has become a boundary on the fringe of society. An intimate place where past and modernity make their acquaintance.”
The railroad’s future is the subject of contention, with some wanting to develop the land and others wanting to preserve it as a historical landmark. There are also proposals to turn it into a public park like New York City’s High Line or Paris’ own Promenade plantée.
According to the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau: “Its rusted tracks are now a haven for a rare biodiversity of wild flowers and fauna; it boasts more than 200 species of plants and no less than 70 animal species. At the beginning of 2008, a first section was open to walkers and should be followed by others in the next few years.”
I appreciate Folk’s work because it documents the way that nature is already reclaiming these man-made artifacts in a beautiful way — before any more changes are made to the land. I personally hope that the citizens of Paris choose to open the entire area as a public space, however, I can understand that they need to do so in a way that is safe for both visitors and the environment.