Sep 01, 2023

The Ghost Town on the Outskirts of Paris

Member-only story

William Sidnam


Full Frame




What is it like to live in the shadow of an airport?

It’s a question I had never really considered before. But after visiting Le Vieux-Pays de Goussainville — the old village of Goussainville, which became mostly abandoned in the 1970s — I discovered the answer.

I had been curious about urban exploration for a long time. But hailing from New Zealand, where the built environment isn’t particularly old, I’d never really had the opportunity to do it. So after moving to France, when I found out about a village that had lost 97% of its inhabitants in one fell swoop, I decided to check it out.

I caught a tram to Saint-Denis, a commune to the north of Paris, before catching a train further north towards the village that was mostly bought out by the Paris Charles de Gaulle airport five kilometres away. At first, I found myself standing near the doorway of my carriage. But as the scenery became greener and greener, I was eventually able to sit down.

Accompanying me was my old Ricoh GRII, a point-and-shoot DSLR-quality camera that I had managed to damage in the snow two January’s ago. After upgrading to the GRIII, I had mostly relegated the camera to the role of dust collector. But as urban exploration was the order of the day, I thought it somewhat fitting to use a largely abandoned camera to document largely abandoned buildings. Though my settings were hard to select, owing to the strange malfunctions that characterized that damaged, definitely-not-waterproof camera, I was able to select the positive film simulation to create a Kodachrome-like slide film look for every photo I was about to take.

The Ghost Town on the Outskirts of Paris