Sebastian Erras Captures a Personal Side of Shopping in Paris and Lisbon
Photography as an art form is one that has always fascinated me. The way the camera captures colors, shapes, human expressions, the world around us both built and natural creating a frozen moment in time that can stir the deepest of emotions within us. When I recently came across the work of the German photographer Sebastian Erras I was reminded of exactly why photography is such a sensational form of art. So, of course, I reached out to Sebastian Erras to learn more and share his story and, specifically, his magnificent Re-Tale project!
La Pharmacie, Paris
Chef Christophe Duparay in front of his restaurant. ©Sebastian Erras/ Pixartprinting.
“The blue colour of the facade is the one reserved for turn-of-the-century Parisian apothecaries. Inside, the beautiful wooden shelves and showcases still display old ceramic medicine pots. But mixed among them you can ﬁnd bottles of wine, chalices, and teapots. All this gives a special atmosphere to La Pharmacie, the restaurant led by chef Christophe Duparay. Sometimes a good wine and a well- cooked dish are the best medicine for the soul, and both are on the menu at this restaurant in the République neighbourhood. “We propose traditional recipes, with fresh season products we prepare in our open kitchen”, Christophe says. “And we offer wines of small producers”. This is medicine one takes without crying.”
Sebastian Erras’ love for photography began with a trip to Massai Mara in Kenya. “It was such a unique experience and opportunity to go to Kenya, that I wanted to keep some memories in form of photographs,” said Sebastian when I asked about this trip. With an old analogue SLR and a few lenses, he began capturing the wildlife. “That’s how it all started.”
Upon returning to Germany, Sebastian continued to explore wildlife and photography, taking a particular interest in birds and orchids. After studying business and marketing, Sebastian decided to make his passion his work and became a fulltime photographer. With a love for design and architecture, he specialized in interior and architectural photography.
Traveling the world and exploring new cultures and things is also a passion of Sebastian’s, so it is only natural that much of his work combines his two loves – travel and design. Which brings me to his fabulous Re-Tale project!
Read on to hear all about it from Sebastian Erras and to see some of my favorites from the project’s two destinations, Paris and Lisbon.
Love Happens: What inspired the Re-Tale project?
The project was a collaboration with the Italian printing company Pixart Printing. We wanted to create some interesting content for their customers. I had done a previous series on floors, where I photographed incredible mosaic and tile floors in 3 different cities in Europe. So, to continue the concept we focused this time on local craftsmanship and retail shops. We pass by shops every day but rarely get to know more about them. For the “re-tale” series we wanted to portray the owner in front of their shop and also tell their story.
Patisserie Boulangerie Boris, Paris
Lh: Why Paris and Lisbon?
Boris Lumé, standing proudly at the entrance of his lovely bakery-confectionery. ©Sebastian Erras/ Pixartprinting.
“Boris Lumé took over this bakery and confectionery just three years ago, in 2013, but he is well aware of its century-old history. In the gorgeous decorations in the front, there is a drawing of the Moulin de la Galette, an ancient windmill that is the symbol of its neighbourhood, Montmartre. The Dance at the Moulin de la Galette, by Renoir, is one of the most celebrated works of Impressionism, a movement led by artists who used the Montmartre as their open-air workshop in the late 19th century. While the Patisserie Boulangerie Boris is on the list of French historical monuments, Boris himself bakes little masterpieces every day: particularly the lovely “petit choux”, a puff pastry typically ﬁlled with whipped cream. Apparently, Meryl Streep became a fan when she ﬁlmed a scene from “Julie and Julia” here.”
We picked Paris because of its history and architecture. Also, the fact that I am very familiar with the city made it an easier pick.
“Paris is so beautiful that travelers are often blinded by the glow of its tourist hot spots. But if you dig below the surface, you will uncover another story of the city. A story made by the people who put art and creativity at the core of their everyday life. A look inside some of the Paris shop fronts, at the life going on behind them, will bring you closer to the vibrant pulse of the city.
The beauty of Paris is more than its amazing museums and monuments. Ancient families of craftsman and young designers, food lovers and music addicts, even opticians and dry cleaners, display a unique savoir-faire that adds creativity to everyday life. Their workshops, laboratories, and boutiques tell a different tale of the city. Next time you go to Paris, take some time to delve into this world: you will not regret it.”
With Lisbon, we wanted to show a city that has become a very popular travel destination lately but also has a rich history.
“Lisbon’s light is unique. The sun shines spectacularly even in winter months. Its rays bounce off every corner of its streets. They highlight the beautiful shapes of its old stores and workshops, the unchanging background to centuries of the city’s life. The same light seems to shine from the people who work in them: welcoming, smiling men and women who love their land and its history.
Entering the most beautiful shops in Lisbon is a way to discover the city in a different way. There is an authenticity there, a mirror on how the great events of history were transformed by the craft and creativity of the Portuguese genius. Lisbon’s craftsmen and merchants seem to bear the sun of the city inside them: they are always ready to shake your hand and welcome you. Don’t forget to meet a few of them when you visit Lisboa.”
Dreaming of visiting Portugal? Check out Lh’s
Design Lover’s Guide to Portugal: Things to Do In Portugal for Architecture, Art & Design Lovers
Lh: How were the shops selected?
We had a few criteria, like the facade, the kind of business they are doing and the typography of the shop’s name. With these guidelines, we started our research online and then tried to find shops that were willing to collaborate with us for this project.
‘Suspenders for Men Sold Here’ – Camisaria Pitta, Lisbon
Lh: Did you have any specifically intriguing encounters with any of the shop owners?
Cládia Marques and her grandfather Alfredo Teixeira welcome visitors into their men’s clothing store. ©Sebastian Erras/ Pixartprinting.
“Lisbon’s neighbourhood of Santa Maria Maior has given way to shops for tourists, but there is one representative of old Lisbon still that holds firm. The 130-year-old family-run Camisaria Pitta is probably the only place in Portugal where one can buy such as items as suspenders for men, says owner Alfredo. In fact, here a man can get all he needs to hit the streets in style, from socks to hat. But custom-made shirts are its specialty. The wood craftsmanship of the shop’s design creates a feeling of professionalism – “a welcoming space for the client to have his privacy in the tailor’s workshop”, Alfredo explains. Winner of various awards, the shop has figured in such movies as “Night Train to Lisbon”. But Alfredo says he feels his shop is a lonely outpost in the neighbourhood these days. “We would like to see more traditional shops around us so that clients would have more motivations to come and buy on this street”, he says.”
When I was in Lisbon and had to photograph the famous cafe “A Brasileira”, they had set up their terrace with big umbrellas, blocking the view, just in front of their cafe. When I explained to him that I couldn’t take a picture of the facade he was more than happy to help me move all the umbrellas, chairs and tables so that I could get the image that I wanted. Having such cooperative collaborators for such a project is not always a given, as most of the time I only had a few minutes of their time to take the images, while the business continues.
‘Coffee and Culture’ at A Brasileira, Lisbon
Lh: What was your favorite part of this project?
Joáo Silva, one of the owners of Lisbon’s most famous coffeehouse. ©Sebastian Erras/ Pixartprinting.
“Brazilian coffee, now considered among the best in the world, did not have many fans in the early 20th century. In 1905, a Portuguese who had lived and cultivated coffee in Brazil returned to Lisbon and opened A Brasileira, hoping to change opinions about his brew. The coffee shop won over converts. But more importantly, A Brasileira became a meeting point of artists and intellectuals after the beginning of the Portuguese Republic in 1910 and the right to freedom of assembly. The cultural icon Revista Orpheu was conceived there. In 1925, 11 paintings by seven new generation artists were exposed at the café, as a statement in favour of modern style. In 1971, another 11 paintings by contemporary artists were displayed, validating the new once again. Writer Fernando Pessoa came so often that his presence was immortalized with a bronze statue.”
I always love to discover a new city and meet the locals. I try to avoid classic tourist guides and hotspots, and rather go discover some of the lesser known areas. Recommendations by the locals are always a good hint and like this, I move from one recommendation to another.
The best part was to meet the owners and listen to their stories. Some of the shops I pass by every day but never really knew about their history. It was very interesting to discover some of their stories, like the exterminator shop of the Arouze family that even played a part in Disney’s “Ratatouille” movie and they also wrote a guide about Paris but from a rat’s perspective.
Le Bonhomme de Bois, Paris
Lh: Do you plan to continue Re-Tale in other cities?
Yann Bilhaud waits for children at the door of the toy shop he runs. ©Sebastian Erras/ Pixartprinting.
“If you want to see the room you always dreamed to sleep in when you were a child, then go to the Bohomme De Bois shop, near the Bastille Square. Behind the red-green entrance (the colours of Christmas) a paradise of traditional toys awaits. “It’s amazing when children stop in front of our windows in enchantment, but maybe it’s less amazing for parents when they are dragged in”, jokes Yann Bilhaud. Here you can ﬁnd toys that are not sold in the chain stores. Yann is especially fond of the Hochet skwish, a wooden rattle resembling an atom, that babies love to touch, maneuver and, of course, get their mouths around.”
I would love to do a European series about historic shops and their beautiful facades. For the moment I kind of keep on working on that when I photograph travel reportage about cities. I always keep an eye out on these beautiful facades, but haven’t really started working fully on this idea yet.
Lh: Do you have any other projects in the works? Or dreams of projects you wish to take on?
Currently I am still working on my “floors” series
. I’ll try to visit some more European cities next year. This year I have worked on a number of travel articles about different European cities. This is something I enjoy a lot and want to continue next year. I still have a few ideas for projects that require a lot of dedication and time, but I am still waiting for the moment that gives me the first spark to actually start it. Being able to “travel for work” and discover all these beautiful cities, countries and meet so many interesting people is something I appreciate a lot and I couldn’t have asked for a better job!
More of our favorites from Sebastian Erras’ Re-Tale Project:
‘Portuguese Versailles’ – Tous: Ourivesaria Alianca, Lisbon
Lubelia Marques, manager for Portugal of the jewelry company Tous, at the door of the Tous – Ourivesaria Alianca local Flagship store. ©Sebastian Erras/ Pixartprinting.
“The sculpted lions’ heads, medallions and floral elements on the facade of this jewelry shop justify its popular name: the Portuguese Versailles. Once you enter, you Oind another: the beautiful painting by Artur Alves Cardoso that appears among the plaster garlands of the ceiling. This jeweler was magnificently decorated in 1914, 11 years after its opening in 1903. The richness of the space has always matched that of the jewels it sold: the shop has received numerous national and international jewelry awards. In 2012, it was on the verge of ending its distinguished history, but the Tous company took over and refurbished it, maintaining its original detail and restoring it once more to its status as one of Portugal’s grandest shops.”
‘History Written in Gold’ – Joalharia Do Carmo, Lisbon
Alfredo Sampaio sees the many stories that are linked with his jewelry shop. ©Sebastian Erras/ Pixartprinting.
“The story of a city could be told through the story of the gold that has passed through it. Since its foundation in 1924, the Lisbon jeweler Joalharia Do Carmo has been a participant in that story. It crafted dozens of gold pieces in this jewelry for ships’ baptisms. During World War II, many Jews fleeing Europe sold their gold here to pay for their escape. “That was a lesson for me: I understood that in war and turmoil the most valuable assets are gold, coin, and precious stones, because money loses its value”, says Alfredo, nephew of one of the founders, who owns the shop today. Photographs hanging in the shop’s windows show some key moments of its history. They also show that nothing has changed in the facade and furniture of the shop in its 55 years. “The way of serving clients is the same, too”, adds Alfredo. While the Joalharia Do Carmo still maintains its commitment to Portuguese products, like the classic local gold filigree, it has adapted to today’s tourist Lisbon with products like beautiful miniatures of the city’s tramways to hang on necklaces and bracelets.”
‘Doll’s Last Resort’ – Hospital de Bonecas, Lisbon
Manuela Cutileiro and one of the dolls cured at her doll hospital. ©Sebastian Erras/ Pixartprinting.
“In 1830 Lisbon was still recovering from its terrible 1755 earthquake. In the site where All Saints Hospital stood before being taken down, a smaller, different kind of hospital opened its doors that year. The patients were not humans, but dolls. Since then, says Manuela, the shop’s chief physician, “we cure the diseases of our dolls, and the saudades [longings] of our clients”. In this remarkable shop and doll museum, it is still possible to see inscriptions and graves from the pre-earthquake hospital. “Destiny changed a place of pain and death into another one, where the tears are only those that come to one’s eyes when remembering childhood”, says Manuela, a physician with a poetic soul. Beyond fixing injured dolls, the shop also sells new ones with handmade traditional Portuguese clothes, along with stuffed animals and mechanical toys, among other items. Unsurprisingly, Hospital de Bonecas has been used in performances for theatre, movies, recordings and even fashion shows.”
Bistrot Melac, Paris
Didier Madamour at the entrance of the Melac restaurant. ©Sebastian Erras/ Pixartprinting.
“Bacchus is properly celebrated at the bistrot Melac, featuring in many pictures and sculptures, including one inside a barrel-shaped niche above the entrance. But the strongest presence of the wine god is in the many different bottles that you can taste at this restaurant. The place has been a wine bar for 75 years, and more recently it became a restaurant with deep roots in Aveyron, a wine region in southern France. Given its status, you’ll ﬁnd discriminating customers like the ex-mayor of Paris and the actors Jean Dujardin and Kevin Spacey. The Bistrot Melac is also famous for its harvest party set up every year in front of the restaurant: the vendanges de Charonne, named after the Parisian neighbourhood where it is located.”
Fish La Boissonerie, Paris
Drew Harré, relaxing at the entrance of his ﬁsh and wine restaurant. ©Sebastian Erras/ Pixartprinting.
“A beautiful mosaic with shells and ﬁsh welcomes you at the entrance of Fish La Boissonerie, a place to taste the ﬁnest ﬁsh and wine in Paris. In 1905, the locale was a ﬁshmonger, poissonerie in French. When Drew Harré and his business partner Juan Sánchez bought it, they changed the “p” to a “b”, playing on the word boisson, drink, and poisson, ﬁsh, hence the name boissonerie. When it opened in 1999, they didn’t serve ﬁsh, starting as a wine bar. Recently, they turned it into a ﬁne dining bar, “with simply delicious food and a great wine list of over 200 French wines”, says Drew. New chef Valentin Vasser plans to take the owners’ love of food to a new level.”
To learn more about Sebastian Erras and see more of his beautiful photographs visit him online at www.sebastianerras.com
Words and interview by Anna Beck Bimba
All photographs ©Sebastian Erras/ Pixartprinting