Interview with Photographer David C. Phillips

by Alice White Walker
the entrance to a passage in paris at christmas time

With his eagle eye and curiosity for new cultures and countries, David C. Phillips has honed every tool in his box during his many years as a professional photographer. One-half of the beloved Instagram duo Parisian Moments, he and his wife Georgianna Lane have created a breathtaking collection of images of Paris, and across the country.

We sat down with him to talk about how he got started, what he loves about the French culture, and how he captured the latest “Portfolio” feature — The Passages of Time — in our Nov/Dec 20 issue.

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Please could you tell us a little bit about your background? How did you come to photography?

Photography found me at age 10, when I became the proud owner of a Kodak Brownie 120 roll film box camera. I learned to develop and print my own black and white film and soon was in charge of photography for my school magazine. It continued as a hobby until I was faced with a decision about my future career and how I was going to make a living. At that point, I adopted a simple formula. What activity did I enjoy the most? Hands down it was photography, and so my career began.

My breakthrough came with starting a stock photography business, which rapidly led to assignments for the textbook and editorial markets. From there, I transitioned to travel photography. My favorite activity is to journey somewhere I don’t know well, spend enough time there to dig below the surface – gathering photos and notes that reveal the character of the place and the people – and share them in the form of a book or through social media. 

a man at a coffee table
David C. Phillips at the Saint-Régis Café in Paris

How did you come to create Parisian Moments with your partner, Georgianna Lane?  

It was my wife, Georgianna (@georgiannalane, georgiannalane.com), who conceived and founded Parisian Moments about 10 years ago and then invited me to join in the venture. Due to our love of photographing Paris, we had amassed a considerable library of images. She’d already established an online shop to sell her fine art photography and thought it would be great for us to create a joint website/print shop/Instagram account that showcased our love of Paris with a fusion of our different styles.

a bunch of peonies next to an espresso
A peony café break © Parisian Moments

Both the site and Instagram account are hugely beloved! What does each of you bring to the duo?

That’s very kind of you! These days, I manage the website, the online shop and the Instagram account, as Georgianna is busy with her own site, books, shops and creative activities. But the content remains half hers and half mine, and we consult and agree on everything that’s published. It is truly a joint endeavor.

Georgianna strives to bring beauty into people’s lives through floral, architectural and travel imagery that has a signature, unmistakable dreamy look. I’m happiest when I have interesting people to photograph. Just let me loose in the Puce de Vanves, the Marché du Livre Ancien, the Marais or the street markets – anywhere lots of native Parisians gather!

a bouquiniste on the Quai Voltaire
A bouquiniste on the Quai Voltaire © Parisian Moments

It’s funny – we can both be standing in the same place at the same time with our cameras and come away with completely different photos… but with Parisian Moments, we both contribute to a curated collection of classic, elegant scenes – we carefully choose every image that captures the traditional essence of French style and brings a Parisian flair to any environment. So one might be hard-pressed to tell which of us has taken any particular image!

Read next: Paris in Bloom with Georgianna Lane

What do you think it is about your aesthetic that people are attracted to?

We are passionate about sharing timeless images of Paris and France. We focus on what is charming, historical, inspiring and memorable. We tend to leave out any modern, gritty and prosaic urban elements.

petals on the ground around a bench in a park
Place Dauphine, horse chestnut trees and petals © Parisian Moments

The wonderful thing about photography is that you have the power to focus on the things you want to include, and leave out the things you don’t. Some might say that this isn’t “real,” but the Paris and France that we portray in our photographs are what people who have visited want to remember and people who dream of visiting hope to see one day. It’s both a memory and a dream!

Sum up what you love about the French culture.

Impeccable style and exquisite attention to detail, an appreciation for aesthetic presentation and for the arts, a wonderfully rich cultural heritage that has been preserved against all odds (perhaps better than any other country) and arguably some of the most enchanting countryside in the world.

You contributed “The Passages of Time” in the Nov/Dec 20 issue — a beautiful feature on Paris’s passages and galeries. Can you tell us about how you shot this? Where, when?   

I spent a few weeks in Paris in October 2019, and I became curious about the subject after seeing a few photographs. In all my time there, I was not fully aware of the extent of the world of covered arcades! Georgianna and I did some research and thought it would be a great subject for Parisian Moments.

I took all the photos over three days of intense, carefully scheduled shooting. I checked the opening time of each passage and galerie and worked out an itinerary that would get me to the maximum number right when they opened, so they wouldn’t be crowded. A combination of walking and cycling took me to each, and I was very happy with the shots I got.

The first stop was the Galérie Vero-Dodat with Café de l’Époque at the entrance, which you see in the opening spread. Even the waiter in the café was in the right place at the right time!

the entrance to a passage in paris at christmas time
Café de l’Époque at the entrance to Galérie Vero-Dodat © David C Phillips

Then I did an additional tour, returning to the same arcades at midday to capture the hum of life within: the complex of Passage des Panoramas and its tributaries is its own little world, teeming with interesting characters and crammed with fascinating, dusty shops, stamp and coin dealers and a variety of specialists that you just won’t find in the big department stores. Also – restaurants and cafés that look like they’ve been there for centuries. I wanted to capture the liveliness, not just the incomparable architecture.

We are delighted with the “Portfolio” in the holiday issue of My French Country Home, so thank you!

Projects or ambitions for the future? 

Georgianna and I are working on a collector’s edition “Paris Moments Library,” a limited series of small photo books of favorite images, each volume focusing on an aspect of Paris (doors, cafés, parks and gardens, etc.), to be available in print and digital form. This is in the early stages of ideas and planning but is a project we are both very excited about. 

And recently, we have realized that many of our photos have already gained historical value (like Notre Dame before the fire and views from the top of the tower that are no longer possible, the old newsstands, the open walk under the Eiffel Tower, bookstores and restaurants that have disappeared such as Le Petit Zinc and so on) so we are keen to preserve this history. The city and country are changing and it is important to us to create a pictorial record.  

a view over Paris from Notre Dame
A view from the top of Notre Dame

In general, we will continue to do more of what we’ve been doing – documenting and sharing the magnificent visual treasures of Paris and France. The enthusiastic and heartfelt feedback we get from people who follow us on Instagram and purchase our prints and canvases is very touching and makes it all worthwhile.   

Follow David on Instagram @photosbydcp or davidcphillips.com and Parisian Moments @aparisianmoment or parisianmoments.com
You can shop David’s latest book Reflections of Venice – Art and Beauty in the Water here.

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