This Hidden Parisian Gem Is 20 Miles Long, and Mostly Off-Limits

The Photo Blog
Sept. 4 2014 12:39 PM

This Hidden Parisian Gem Is 20 Miles Long, and Mostly Off-Limits

parispromo
Pierre_Folk_07
From the series, “By the Silent Line.”

Pierre Folk

La Petite Ceinture (known as the Little Belt in English) is a relic of a bygone era. Built in the 1850s and ’60s, it runs nearly 20 miles around the City of Light along the Boulevards des Maréchaux. It carried passengers until 1934, when automobiles and the underground metro system supplanted it as preferred modes of transport.

Since then, the tracks have had a life of their own. Left largely untended, biodiversity thrived, and, today, the Little Belt is home to more than 200 species of plants and at least 70 different species of animals. In 2008, part of the tracks between the Porte d’Auteuil and the Gare de Passy-la-Muette became accessible as a walking route and nature trail. The rest, as Atlas Obscura notes, is currently off limits, but “its accessibility from nine arrondissements makes it popular with urban explorers.”

After discovering the rails in 2010 while walking with a friend in southern Paris, Pierre Folk became one of those explorers, driven by an interest in capturing the “relation between society and its environment,” and the physical traces those societies leave in their wake. He calls his project, “By the Silent Line.” “This project is mostly about the notion of temporality and the way our society deals with its technological revolutions,” he said via email. “I believe the series somehow tells a great deal about man as well.”

Pierre_Folk_09
From the series, “By the Silent Line.”

Pierre Folk

Pierre_Folk_04
From the series, “By the Silent Line.”

Pierre Folk

Pierre_Folk_05
From the series, “By the Silent Line.”

Pierre Folk

Advertisement

First, Folk scouted locations on the Belt without his camera. Then, he returned there with his gear over and over, often to the same locations at different times of the day and the year. Some sections are below street level, while others are elevated, providing a birds-eye view of the bustle of Paris. There are also many tunnels, including some over half a mile long. “Overall, it’s very quiet. In the morning, you can hear birds sing, which gives the feeling of being away from the city, “ he said.

While many Parisians know the Belt by name, most “don’t imagine how large it is, even those who live right next to the rails,” Folk said. “Most Parisians think of la Petite Ceinture as wasteland, which is a common misconception. The line isn’t abandoned; it’s just mostly unused. Of course, some parts are more damaged than others with the passing of time but overall it is maintained in condition. Potentially, it could be reused for train circulation with just a bit of rehabilitation work.”

Pierre_Folk_01
From the series, “By the Silent Line.”

Pierre Folk

Pierre_Folk_02
From the series, “By the Silent Line.”

Pierre Folk

Pierre_Folk_10
From the series, “By the Silent Line.”

Pierre Folk

Over the past few years, Folk witnessed the birth of various projects along the railway, including the construction of community gardens and the conversion of old stations into bars, restaurants, and shops. He also had a few encounters with some of the native wildlife. “I think I broke the 100 meter dash record when I was chased by a Doberman next to a construction area,” he said.

As this development continues, Folk wrote in a statement, the railway “is likely to be reclaimed by modern society.” While Folk said Parisians may miss the Belt as a “place where past and modernity make their acquaintance,” he prefers to think its rehabilitation “could be a positive evolution, preserving the line’s soul.” “I suppose the important thing would be to avoid destroying or abandoning it, and to instead somehow rehabilitate or recycle it. Current projects are different depending on the neighborhoods. So, in the end, I think the development of the line is more of a plural future than a singular one.”

Pierre_Folk_06
From the series, “By the Silent Line.”

Pierre Folk

Pierre_Folk_08
From the series, “By the Silent Line.”

Pierre Folk

Pierre_Folk_03
From the series, “By the Silent Line.”

Pierre Folk

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Subprime Loans Are Back

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Outward
Sept. 22 2014 4:45 PM Why Can’t the Census Count Gay Couples Accurately?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 9:17 PM Trent Reznor’s Gone Girl Soundtrack Sounds Like an Eerie, Innovative Success
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 22 2014 4:34 PM Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.