Meet Histoire de Rue

French heritage history democratized

Meet Histoire de Rue - illustration 1

Portrait of Alexis Lecomte © Histoire de Rue

The Instagram account Histoire de Rue (meaning “story of the street" in English) invites its audience to travel through time and key moments of history, illustrated by well thought out photographs. Artsper met the account's creator, Alexis Lecomte, to learn about the humor and pedagogy of the process behind each project.

1. Hello Alexis! Can you introduce yourself and explain your Instagram account to us?

Hello Artsper! I'm just 30 years old, the age of reason it seems... well, almost. I live in Paris but I often travel throughout France (and elsewhere) to explore the stories and the heritage surrounding us. I am the creator of the Histoire de Rue project, mainly visible on Instagram and which is becoming, in itself, an activity in its own right.

The idea of the project is to bring to life the soul of our streets, monuments and heritage and to take readers on a journey through time. As I often say, I see myself as a storyteller and an explorer. To achieve this, I superimpose old photos on today's landscape to highlight evolutions, draw threads and explore often-forgotten stories. I also use video to immerse you in the heart of the monuments in a light-hearted, but serious, way. The idea is to dust it all off!

I created Histoire de Rue in 2017 to combine two passions: photography and history. So the project was born quite naturally, and has been growing ever since!

2. How do you find the postcards you use?

The "old photos", as I call them, are my driving force! And unlike gasoline at the moment, there is no shortage. To find them, I have two solutions: by chance, at flea markets and sales, or by going to my little addresses, especially specialized stores that have incredible collections of postcards and old photos.

My favorite address? Les Images de Marc near Bastille, Paris! A real Harry Potter store. I also go very often to the flea market of Saint-Ouen, where I have my little contacts!

Be careful, if you start such a collection, plan to budget because old postcards can have a certain cost depending on their rarity, condition, value, etc.

Meet Histoire de Rue - illustration 1
Meet Histoire de Rue - illustration 1

On the left: Monceau metro station, on the right: Berlin © Histoire de Rue

3. How do you select the stories you tell? Do you start with the postcard or the monument when you prepare your publications?

I'd say... both! I am now becoming more and more rigorous and selective in the topics I want to cover. I like to approach a subject in different ways, a bit like a series, using photography, video, stories, articles, etc. So I usually choose the subjects and then comes the stage of finding the "old photos" and stories to tell. I also build and prepare these series in collaboration with institutions or monuments that may call upon my services to explore their stories in a rather new way!

But the fantasy is always there! While rummaging through old store drawers or flea markets, I can be surprised and seduced by incredible photos that, at first glance, tell me: "go ahead, big guy, explore my story"! In this case, it's a bit like the Married At First Sight of the postcard...

4. This mix of old and new shows us France in a new light. What is the message you want to convey to your audience?

Be curious! I think that curiosity is the most beautiful flaw of homo sapiens. And if there's one message I want to get across, it's that we are constantly surrounded by incredible stories, sometimes intimate, sometimes funny, vulgar, tragic, forgotten... and all you have to do is look or be curious to discover them. Everyone can apply this principle. Have you ever wondered when your building or house was built? Who lived in your house 100 years ago? What happened on your street? Small questions that can lead to surprising answers, that's what I try to do with Histoire de Rue by questioning our heritage and exploring the more or less forgotten stories that surround us!

5. What was your favorite story to tell and why?

It's hard to choose just one... Each story has its own value.

That said, the subject that touched me deeply was the occupation and liberation of Paris. In June 1940, the German army entered the capital and imposed its law until the liberation in August 1944. In this chaos, many photographs have come down to us, often anonymous and taken at the risk of their author's life, far from the propaganda images of the Nazi regime. I began to deal with this complex subject to understand how the Germans had taken the capital, in what way, for what purpose... but also to explore the stories of daily life in this tragic period. The events of the liberation of Paris show scenes of urban guerrilla warfare. A hallucinating time, unreal images... and a necessary mediation. It is an endless subject that will surely continue through future series or projects.

6. You are an expert on the streets of Paris and the monuments of France. What is your favorite monument, and which one would you recommend to someone who doesn't know France well?

In all subjectivity, my favorite monument is the Grand Palais in Paris, but that's because of my memories there. Built in 1900 for the World Exhibition, I had the chance and the pleasure to work there for more than 4 years, I was in charge of the communication of the monument. Its history, its more or less secret corners, my sweet memories... I have never had such a strong relationship with a monument.

For someone who doesn't know France well, I would advise them to push the doors of the Pantheon. A former church converted into a temple of the Republic, it is certainly the perfect opportunity to get to know more about some of the great characters of the republican nation. And if possible, I would advise them to go up to the lantern to enjoy a panoramic and incredible view of the capital. In the meantime, I made a video report in 2020 on this monument to explore its history, it is available here.

Meet Histoire de Rue - illustration 1
Meet Histoire de Rue - illustration 1

On the left: Alexis Lecomte's postcard collection, on the right: Montmartre © Histoire de Rue

7. Photography is your favorite medium. Are you inspired by a particular photographer or style?

Photography is indeed one of my favorite fields. I am very sensitive to the work of the Japanese photographer Yoichi Midorikawa for his pictorial approach to photography. His work Inner Sea, which mixes photography and drawing, is absolutely magnificent.

I am also naturally interested in what I call the pioneers of photography, such as Eugène Atget, Berenice Abbott, Charles Marville or, more recently, Robert Frank, who have left us unique testimonies of our cities, streets and daily life from the second half of the 19th century to the first half of the 20th century.

But make no mistake, I am also interested in the younger generation through photographers who mix social engagement and aesthetics such as Pierfrancesco Celada who covered in a sublime way the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong in 2014, or Amina Kadous who devoted a recent series on the erosion of a part of the history of her country, Egypt. She received the Madame Figaro 2022 prize at the Rencontres d'Arles 2022 festival.

8. And finally, do you have any upcoming projects you'd like to tell us about?

I am a passionate hyperactive and I am never short of projects. In the next few months, I'm going to start a publishing project and you'll hear me on the radio... I'd also like to bring my readers into real life by becoming a guide in the streets of Paris, so I'm working on tours that I'll launch soon.

Of course, I continue to develop the Histoire de Rue project and to collaborate with monuments and institutions that wish to tell their story with me.

And, fresh news, I just launched a newsletter that explores a heritage anecdote every week in a quick and efficient way.


Their favorite artworks

Nu au Miroir / A Nude Model Before a Mirror - 1910, Egon Schiele

Nu au Miroir / A Nude Model Before a Mirror - 1910

Egon Schiele

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Le cactus au bord de l'eau, Al Freno

Le cactus au bord de l'eau

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Rolling Stones - Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood (hidden), Video Shoot, New York, 1978, Michael Putland

Rolling Stones - Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood (hidden), Video Shoot, New York, 1978

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