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Portraits of Shopkeepers and Their Shops at the Saint-Ouen Flea Market in Paris

The flea market of Saint-Ouen in Paris is one of the largest and oldest of its kind. Founded in 1885 and made up of 15 smaller markets, the market sees more than 11 million visitors each year and hosts more than 2000 merchants.

Given those statistics, you would think it would be the ideal place for some great street photography. But photographer Andrew Kovalev has instead used it as the inspiration and setting for his most recent portrait project.

Titled Les Visages des Puces (or “The Faces of Fleas”) the portraitist’s most recent project highlights some of the incredibly diverse shopkeepers who have made the Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen their home for many years.

Here’s a behind the scenes look at Kovalev visiting with and photographing some of the shopkeepers:

“From the very beginning my goal was to show the connection between a person and his or her shop,” Kovalev tells us. “Even the most chaotically decorated shop appears coherent. Every item is in its place, every little thing tells a story: about itself, about its previous owners and of course about the shopkeeper.”

At this point, the project is made up of 60 portraits of merchants, 45 of which are accompanied by the shopkeeper’s story. All of them are being slowly uploaded to the project’s website. At the top we have François-Michel, a former interior designer who has designed for large brands and Middle-East princes alike.

It’s these stories that Kovalev is after with his photography. “From the moment I entered the market, it was about merchants, not shops or goods,” he explains. “People — that was the most interesting part of it!”

Here’s are a few of the people Kovalev has met, complete with short descriptions in the captions:

Lily is a former secretary with a passion for antiques that she inherited from her grandfather.

Antoine is a former teacher who sells industrial style objects.

Alain is a former engineer who sells only “clever objects,” those unique objects that “arouse curiosity and catch the eye.”

Henri is a former real estate broker who sells old toys, which he calls “very emotional goods.”

Michel is a former salesman who sells industrial furniture and “curiosities,” such as the horse he is posing with.

Mathias is a former store manager and advertiser who sells original panoramic photographs of France from between the beginning and middle of the 20th century.

Michel is a former aviation engine fitter who sells old Louis XV-style furniture.

Edward has always worked at the flea market, specializing in African art and the photography of Louis Stettner.

Michael is an ancient language specialist and former jurist who sells drawers and travel-oriented furniture from between the 1850s and 1930s

Simone is a former teacher with a love for history. In her shop, you’ll find 19th century paintings and furniture.

Paul is a former luxury and fashion consultant who sells Brazilian furniture from 50s and 60s.

Marie is a former laboratory assistant who specializes in shabby chic. The albatross behind her is not for sale. He is her friend.

Franck and Louise are a former antique dealer and singer, respectively. Their shop is full of 20th century goods.

Grace is a freelance photographer who sells “a mix of everything.”

To see more of Kovalev’s flea market portraits and learn more about the fascinating shopkeepers who spend their Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays at the Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen, head over to the project’s website by clicking here.


Image credits: Photographs by Andrew Kovalev and used with permission.

[via PetaPixel]

[via PetaPixel]

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