American Krystal Kenney moved to Paris for a year and ended up staying there – home is now an apartment in Montmartre
Where are you from and what were you doing before you decided to move to Paris in 2012?
I’m originally from Pasadena, Maryland, a little town just outside Washington D.C. I spent my entire life there until I decided to move to Paris at the age of 26. Before moving to Paris, I was working as a photographer in the D.C. area.
What brought you to Paris?
I had vacationed in Paris a few years earlier and realised how much I loved the city. I thought it would be great fun to live there for a year and then hop around Europe working odd jobs on farms or cleaning yachts. I didn’t have a house, kids or any debt and thought it was a great time to be free and explore the world.
Describe your local area of Paris…
I live in Montmartre, in the 18th arrondissement. The area is considered to be an artist district where many famous artists lived, including Van Gogh, Picasso and Renoir. It has become quite expensive, but still attracts many artists who spend their days painting tourists. There is a certain charm and village feel to it.
How did you go about finding a place in Paris?
I found my first apartment on Airbnb and asked the owners if they would rent it to me long term. I was lucky because they agreed, and I didn’t have to go through a ton of paperwork. I used an agency to find my current apartment and had to fill in lots of forms, pay high fees and pay for a guarantor (an agency that will pay my rent if I can’t). It wasn’t a fun process, but I couldn’t be happier with my apartment.
Are the locals welcoming?
Paris is a tough city to make friends, however, this is not the case in Montmartre, where people are more likely to talk to each other. We have a cute dog which we’ve nicknamed the Mayor of Montmartre. Everywhere we go people shout “COCO!” and random strangers speak to us because of him as well. Our dog has helped us make many friends.
How else do you make friends in such a large city?
We attend local events such as the outdoor theatre on our street which puts on Shakespeare plays. Another great way to make friends is to hang out in the local cafés and brasseries. When you are relaxing and having a coffee or lunch, you will find people who want to converse. Many times they are locals as well.
How did you go about learning French?
It was difficult. Because I am a freelancer and work when people need me, my schedule is constantly changing. I tried many options including the free classes at the mayor’s office, the expensive classes at the French schools and exchange partners. But the best results for me came from using an app called italki where you can hire a French teacher to chat for an hourly rate. This provided flexibility and the attention I needed to learn French.
What inspired you to become a photographer in Paris?
I always loved taking photos. My mother continually had a camera pointed at our faces when we were children. I found this annoying, but I somehow ended up picking up a camera as a teen and taking photos of my friends and fun events. When I graduated university with a degree in marketing, I decided I wanted to try photography instead and found a good mentor. Once I arrived in Paris, I started networking with local organisations to help grow my business.
What are some of your favourite places and subjects to shoot?
Besides Montmartre, I also love shooting around Île St-Louis because it’s in the centre of the city and surrounded by water. The buildings are some of the oldest in Paris, and the island is calm and dotted with trees and great picnic locations along the Seine. I especially like to shoot couples who are visiting Paris. For many of them, it’s their first time in the capital. This gives me the chance to see Paris with a fresh pair of eyes and to fall in love with the city all over again. When you live here for a long time, you can become jaded and stop enjoying the beauty that the city has to offer.
What are the advantages of living in such a big city?
The cultural venues – there is always something to do! I meet a lot of great people in Paris; they are creative, adventurous, and we have so much to talk about. I am constantly inspired by the events and people I meet here.
And the disadvantages?
Big cities can drain your energy. I find it’s important to leave often and recharge, for my mental and physical wellbeing. Being so disconnected from nature is not good for anyone. You begin to miss fresh air and smiles.
What do you enjoy most about life in Paris?
It’s great to be able to work here doing what I enjoy. Every day, my job takes me on a new adventure to meet new and interesting people. This week alone I shot high-profile clients at the luxury Crillon hotel and discovered the private rooms of Karl Lagerfeld. Next week I’ll be on a train to the south of France to shoot a wedding in a castle.
What advice would you give to anyone considering moving to Paris?
It’s important to be realistic about the harshness that comes with living here. It’s hard to get a bank account, find a place to live and learn French. You should be prepared to argue and push for what you want and need here. But if it’s your dream, go for it – the pieces will fall together!
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Lead photo credit : Wikimedia Commons Gryffindor
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