Revisiting Meudon

Revisiting Meudon

Meudon is a major icon in the history of photograph and its often used as an example in the evolution of photographic composition. Not only that its a famous railway picture. The scene depicts a subject carrying a wrapped parcel (probably a painting) up Rue du Docteur Vuillieme whilst a steam engine is seen crossing the lofty viaduct above. I wanted to see if André Kertész’s famous 1928 Paris scene still existed, so turned to Google maps for this task.

Street View doesnt actually take one to where Kertész took his photograph. However the viaduct can be seen from adjacent locations included in Street View – a couple of these perspectives are depicted:

Scene showing the junction where the roads and two viaducts (one at low level and the other at high level) pass over each other. A man is about to walk over the adjacent crossing. This scene is from 2008.

As the above shows there are actually TWO viaducts in Meudon. Google Streets.

This view from Avenue Jean Jaures shows the point at which Kertész’s steam engine was pictured crossing the valley. Below that point is the newer viaduct. If one looks carefully at Kertész’s picture, this lower viaduct can be seen under construction.

The road leading off right is Rue du Docteur Vuillieme where Kertész took his 1928 photograph. The upper viaduct looks different these days because it has been widened to take extra tracks across the valley.

Rue du Docteur Vuillieme in Meudon, which is located to the south west of the centre of Paris, and about 6km from the Eiffel Tower. Tis is the earlier 2008 view of that road with the famous viaduct in the background. There is a pair of shops either side of the road. This was the nearest view to the site where André Kertész took his famous photograph that Google would show in 2013.

This is a view looking down Rue du Docteur Vuillieme, by its junction with Rue du Val in Meudon showing the viaduct in the distance. The building at the far end of the road (with its dormer windows) is the one seen in Kertész’s picture. Google Streets.

Rue du Docteur Vuillieme in Meudon showing a closer up view of the location where André Kertész took his famous photograph; The actual site is further down the road and is marked with a re circle.

A crop showing the other end of Rue du Docteur Vuillieme. The red circle is roughly where Kertész would have stood whilst taking his famous picture. Google Streets.

For comparison with the previous two pictures looking down Rue du Docteur Vuillieme, this is a low-res view of Kertész’s famous 1928 photograph.

Meudon revisited 2024

The above is the 2013 post as it looked then. The 2024 additions are in this section onward. The low-res image is actually a later one with better quality from Twitter/X in September 2023 as the earlier one was rather low-res in fact! If one clicks on the link a high-res image will be available.

The famous Meudon viaduct was first discussed in 2012 as part of an essay for a photography diploma that I was doing, discussing various early 20th Century photographers such as Coburn, Hoppé and Kertész. Naturally all of these have done railway themed photographs at one time or another. I discussed Coburn in a post some years back with some pictures he took of the Snowdon Mountain Railway in the 1920s. As for Hoppé he’s been revisited twice in regards to his British Museum tube station photograph of 1937.

In January 2013 my essay brief on Meudon became what would be one of my earliest blog posts with pictures from Google Streets, hence the title ‘Revisiting Meudon.’ In fact this was my first railway themed post, quickly followed by some short ones on London Underground’s 150th anniversary which was current at the time. Railway themed posts on my blog totalled about six in all until 2015 when I began doing these on a regular basis, starting with the Metropolitan Railway.

At the time of writing the Meudon post (January 2013) there were no relevant Google street views, which is why I had to manage with scenes that were slightly further away than I would have liked. The earliest Google Street View that exists for Rue du Docteur Vuillieme dates from June 2013, hence I was simply five months too early in terms of Meudon!

Google’s current image at the very location Kertész took his famous photograph.

Kertész’s photograph with the steam engine wasn’t his first shot yet he wasn’t happy with it. A number of attempts were made until Kertész achieved a desired result. Histoire de la photographie.

The guy with the parcel was part of André Kertész’s attempt to create a rather foreboding image, essentially what some sources say is a work of surrealism – and which honours earlier surrealist paintings such as those by Giorgio De Chirico. It is said a Lecia was used to take the photographs.

Originally written January 2013. Updated April 2024.