Ayako Bielsa’s Instagram bio is a simple, single sentence. “Daily life in Paris, sometimes Tokyo, and beyond.”

Her photos, too, are simple, yet they capture the elusive quality of her adopted city. Paris, after all, is a bit like a butterfly — both beautiful and hard to pin down.

Ayako strolls the cobblestone streets on the hunt for suitable subjects. Maybe she will find a building’s façade perfectly lit, maybe the perfect pattern of street lamps. She tends to decide where to go at the last minute, letting her feet do the choosing or just following her mood.

Paris is full of hidden charm. Narrow, cobbled alleyways. Lovely courtyards. There is inspiration everywhere, and Ayako takes full advantage of it.

She photographs early in the morning, when the light is constantly changing and the streets are empty. She heads out in the rain, when the cobblestones are wet and colorful umbrellas are held high. She scrutinizes angles and constructs frames, then waits for something to pass by. A woman walking her dog, a vintage car, a man on a bicycle — a way of photography at the intersection of inevitability and chance.

Occasionally, she see an image in her mind ahead of time. Notre-Dame with cherry blossoms, autumn leaves at the Place des Vosges, or backlit figures walking across the Pont Neuf. Sometimes the composition turns out differently — the weather, time frame, or atmosphere not matching what she imagined. But every now and then, she photographs exactly what she had envisioned.

Photographing Paris becomes a kind of ritualistic poetry for Ayako. Each shot is a new attempt to capture the air, the light, the season, the stories within Paris.

Even after six years, Ayako still makes new discoveries. It is, after all, a city full of stories, constantly being reborn at the start of each new day.

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