The French café: open ‘like a lighthouse in the night’

The French café: open ‘like a lighthouse in the night.’

A photography exhibition in Paris is a tribute to the women and men across France who keep cafés open ‘like a lighthouse in the night.’ 

Along the railings of the park next to the Town Hall of the 14th arrondissement in Paris is a photography exhibition paying tribute ‘to the happiness of Bistrots.’ The photographic exhibition, from 1 June to 27 August 2023, displays the photos of Pierre Josse and Pierrick Bourgault who followed the art of the café.

The photographs represent two different photographers and their studies of café bistrots; these ‘small universes’ – all unique and vibrant places – or, as French novelist Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) describes, ‘parliaments of the people.’


The photographic studies highlight the social bond created around a bistrot, a coffee bar, representing the ‘association for the recognition of the art of living in France’s bistros and cafés as an intangible cultural heritage.’ It aims to safeguard this café culture as a culture of social sharing and exchange – a ‘precious human value’ in the society of life.

Pierre Josse describes himself as a professional hobo. He has been wandering the world for 40 years as editor-in-chief of Le Guide du Routard. He loves to socialize, communicate, read, dream, and, of course, taste the ‘strangest beverages on earth.’ He says he never fails to immortalize all of his favourite cafés in his photography.

Pierrick Bougault is an author and journalist in the fields of agriculture and anthropology. He loves listening, observing, describing, and taking pictures. He says his photography uses the ‘light of the place and the moment’ in order to reveal the universe of a person, a world in miniature. 

From 2010 to the present day, cafés from Loire to Le Mans, and around the 20 arrondissements of Paris, the photographs are presented in colour and in black and white. 


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