The Gardes Républicains, part of the national military, were a perennial presence in the streets of Paris and thus a fitting subject for Eugène Atget. His photographs depicted all that could be seen in and around Paris, especially its citizens. Lined up along the boulevard du Palais, the guards have assembled in front of the Palais de Justice, under the oldest clock in the city. Atget placed his camera so that their formation begins at the lower left corner of the composition and continues diagonally into the distance. Stooped under the black drape that attached to his bulky camera, Atget evidently captured the curiosity and attention of most of the guards, who gaze at the photographer.
Although Atget's primary interest was in documenting the architecture and people of Paris, he often inadvertently captured supplementary information. An advertisement for absinthe, a liquor flavored with wormwood and fennel, appears adjacent to the guards on the right side of the photograph. Soon after this picture was taken, the beverage was outlawed in France because a chemical in one of its ingredients caused convulsions, hallucinations, mental deterioration, and psychoses. It was not until 1918 that a substitute for true absinthe was available.