Flaneuse is the female version of flanuer, which means, in basic terms, a person who walks around idly, examining his environment and his surroundings. Charles Baudelaire states it beautifully after Paris was being rebuilt by Napoleon III and Baron Haussmann during the 1860s.
“The crowd is his element, as the air is that of birds and water of fishes. His passion and his profession are to become one flesh with the crowd. For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world—impartial natures which the tongue can but clumsily define. The spectator is a prince who everywhere rejoices in his incognito. The lover of life makes the whole world his family, just like the lover of the fair sex who builds up his family from all the beautiful women that he has ever found, or that are or are not—to be found; or the lover of pictures who lives in a magical society of dreams painted on canvas. Thus the lover of universal life enters into the crowd as though it were an immense reservoir of electrical energy. Or we might liken him to a mirror as vast as the crowd itself; or to a kaleidoscope gifted with consciousness, responding to each one of its movements and reproducing the multiplicity of life and the flickering grace of all the elements of life.”
—Charles Baudelaire, “The Painter of Modern Life”, (New York: Da Capo Press, 1964). Orig. published in Le Figaro, in 1863.
However, because of the times it was coined in, no mention of women flanuer was ever mentioned. George Sand, famale author during the 19 th century, disguised herself as a man in order to walk the streets of Paris. Think about it. It was truly a man’s world and if a woman was walking around idling about she would be looked at unfavorably. But it’s the 21st Century, and women can walk about, observe, and document her surroundings as well. I have been doing this for over 15 years with my camera, but at that time I didn’t realize I was a flanuese. However, now I feel totally free to capture details of the cities I love. So my friends, I know this was a brief introduction of “why flanuese”, but as I am looking through the Internet more and more flanuese’s are breaking through, which is a good sign.
I welcome you to take this journey with me, and see what we can discover together.