One day in 1932, I was standing in front of the Académie Française and decided to take a look at what was behind those massive gates. I noticed that, for the average French citizen, even the sight of this national institution was awe-inspiring. I simply became very curious and wanted to know what was behind that imposing facade. As I wandered farther and higher up in the building, I ended up in the huge attic...the clock was under the cupola. Its glass face with Roman numerals gave me this fantastic view onto the Pont des Arts with the Louvre behind it.
Looking at this photograph simulates a feeling of standing beside the photographer, looking out on a wintry Parisian cityscape. Through André Kertész's careful juxtaposition, the clock's silhouetted Roman numerals and hands appear to align with various elements of the scene below. The V points to the statue's shadow, the IIII traps two pedestrians, the III rests atop magazine stands flanking the Seine, and the star shape on the clock's hand blocks the far end of a bridge crossing the river. Darker than anything else, the clock's numerals and hand appear to be cut out and collaged onto the print's surface, rather than a natural part of the scene.
This photograph demonstrates Kertész's strategic use of flat, foreground elements against a deep background to suggest a sense of space. But he became most well known for his bird's-eye perspective, which reflects his desire to photograph behind the scenes from unconventional viewpoints.