Parisian ruins being photographed, 1871.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Plate from the Illustrated London News. Shortly after the fall of the Commune in May of 1871, Parisians who had left the city during the conflicts began to return to what was left of their homes. Many, like the woman in the foreground, found nothing but rubble. However, tourists began to flock to see the ruins, and images of the city, referred to as 'historian and souvenir, fact and memory', fetched large sums of money. Le Monde Illustre, correctly observed that 'the world is actually fighting over images of our disasters'. Not surprisingly, this aroused hostility, and in December, the sale of images 'that disturbed the public peace' was prohibited.