Shortly after covering fur fashions for Life in New York in October 1948, Parks was dispatched to Paris for another fashion shoot, which would be featured in the magazine’s April 25, 1949, issue. His outstanding performance on these assignments, and his great success with the photographs of Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman on Stromboli, greatly impressed his editor, Wilson Hicks. During the summer of 1950, some months after Parks had returned to New York, Hicks offered him the “dream assignment”—to be the photographer for Life’s Paris bureau over the next two years.

In addition to the elegant fashions that Parks was accustomed to photographing, Paris was home to a bustling, expressive street culture, and the scenes Parks documented attest to his enthusiasm for being in the thick of this world, among the local people. His memoirs describe these years with lyrical nostalgia: “The soft fi ltered light of spring rain glistening off the Place de la Concorde; the splendid, marbled bridges and ancient buildings sitting, waiting, like glorious stage settings, overwhelming in their beauty” (To Smile in Autumn, 1979).

Parks’s subjects in these years encompassed everything from busy street markets to elegant weddings to the state funeral of Henri-Philippe Pétain, former Marshal of France, vilifi ed for his collaboration with the Nazis in World War II.