Story :: Louis XIV Inspecting the Troops

Louis XIV inspecting the troops, accompanied by Anne of Austria

Story behind the shot

One of the most interesting things about street photography is the room for interpretation. Since the subjects are neither under instruction nor known personally to the photographers, it creates two layers of interpretation:

  1. that of the photographer, through framing, anticipating and snapping
  2. that of the viewers, to each his/her own

This reminds me of the trinity of appreciation in music: composers, musicians and audience. The difference here is that:

  1. the works don't replay themselves - « l'instant decisif »
  2. the musicians (subjects) aren't aware of the existence of the composers (photographers) most of the time

Louis XIV Inspecting the Troops

When I was looking for a shot in front of Musée d'Orsay, I was as usual attracted by the famous parade of 6 statutes created for l'Exposition Universelle in 1878. Together known as The 6 Continents, these allegorical statutes represent, from left to right, Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America and Oceania. The two in the shot above are Africa, holding up a cornucopia, and North America.

What captured my eyes initially was actually the mother and her grandiose faux fur. I was wondering whether I should get closer and take a more animated shot of her. However, as she followed her son (supposedly) from the left to the right, inspecting the statutes one by one, I decided to frame the shot in an abstract way, from a certain distance.

The result is the photo above, which I described as « Louis XIV inspecting the troops, accompanied by Anne of Austria ».

While Louis XIV did have the ambition of the 6 continents without a doubt, the truth is his mother, Anne d'Autriche (Anne of Austria) acted as regent for 8 years during 1643 till 1651, when Luis XIV was finally declared to have reached the age of majority. But the little Sun King wouldn't assume full rein of the government until 1661, when he's already 18.

We could therefore imagine in the earlier years of his « majority », he would still be accompanied by his mother for all his burgeoning ambitions, much like the little boy in the shot.

Obviously, as a viewer you're entitled to an interpretation of your own. You're welcome to leave yours below in the comments.