Monday, 28 February 2011

Paris and I ~ 'Late Edition: Rosbif Shoots Frog'

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Late Edition: Rosbif Shoots Frog ~

Le Petit Journal was a daily Paris newspaper from 1863 to 1944, and here it is, adorning the walls of a Metro station near you. If you are near Réaumur Sébastopol on line 3, that is.

I'm not quite sure why they have some pages from this venerable old publication, and I can't see any connection between the pages displayed and either the metro station in question or any upcoming events, but it's an oh-so welcome change from the tiresome ads we are subjected to every day of our commuting lives.

Before the turn of the century even, Le Petit Journal had a circulation of a million copies, including a weekly supplement with pictures, just like newspapers today. Or maybe I should say that newspapers today have coloured supplements just like Le Petit Journal used to have.

As well as championing cycling and motorcar races the publication often included serialised novels and eye-catching colour covers showing prints or etchings of newsworthy events of the day.

Graphic war scenes and gory accidents, as well as society happenings would all be common themes. I'm looking at a charming full page illustration as I type, captioned 'Enfant tué par un gendarme Prussien' (Child killed by a Prussian policeman), and sure enough, there's the bastard Hun shooting an innocent boy in the back.

Sensationalism to sell or objective reporting of events as they happened? Was The Sun school of journalism hatched here? I wasn't there at the time, so your guess is as good as mine.

© 2011
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Paris and I ~ 'No Regrets'

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ No Regrets ~

No Regrets, originally uploaded by Paris Set Me Free.

Were those buildings behind her ever really behind 'her'? They look far too recent, horrendously recent and ugly, to me.

Did she walk these actual, suspiciously modern-looking 'cobblestones', which aren't really cobblestones at all? Probably not.

But did her rich, evocative tones ring out around these working class streets, this little lady on her way to enchanting the whole world? Indubitably.

Now here's a thought. Given the choice, would you prefer to actually be living here and then, at a time when she was young and unknown and alive, and you could experience those unforgettable melodies 'first ear'?

Or do you prefer looking down on a statue and listening to memories and admiring an unsightly, decidedly un-Parisian building?

Maybe tomorrow's working class hero is singing on a street corner or in a metro corridor right now, just waiting to be discovered. And why not? Any sculptors out there?

© 2011
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Paris and I ~ 'Piss-Poor in Lutetia Parisiorum'

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Piss-Poor In Lutetia Parisiorum ~

Pissing in public in Paris has a long and venerable history.

The famous French pissoirs were named vespasiennes after probably the world's most famous pee taxer, the Emperor Vespasian, from 2000 years ago. They even did it then, can you imagine?

Vespasian's son, apparently, was revolted by the filthy origins of the money thus extracted, to which his father replied "pecunia non olet", or money doesn't smell. Although if it was demanded just after the pisser in question had used the service... well anyway.

Today's Paris is a curious mixture of shiny pee-pods and smelly corners, the former closing just around the time people stagger home (10pm), if they're working at all, thus defeating their purpose somewhat.

I'm pretty ambivalent about them; often enough I've been dying to go and upon reaching that panacea of peedom it has been working and free that I'm not going to slag them off or write one of those funny stories about searching for one in vain.

That said, I have also searched for one in vain and, dare I say this... been guilty of the other, less official method of bladdatorial relief. Well, what can you do? What do women do, for that matter? Are they really from a different planet? Venusians must be different like that I guess. Or maybe they just drink less. I'll have to try that sometime.

© 2011
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Paris and I ~ 'Ex-Expat Blues'

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Ex-Expat Blues ~

Ex-Expat Blues, originally uploaded by Paris Set Me Free.

Occasionally I wonder how much you can really hope to worm yourself into the deep underbelly of Parisian society as an expat and indeed, how much you should.

I even had a disorientating discussion with someone recently about what an expat actually is. They said it was someone who intends to return to their homeland eventually, which means I've just lost one of the few labels I felt reasonably happy using. But I don't like labels much anyway, so it's not a great loss.

Here I accompanied some active socialists who were celebrating the 140th anniversary of the Paris Commune, an abortive attempt at a kind of democracy which the chaotic circumstances of the times doomed from the outset.

I don't suppose they thought of me as one of the 'camarades' for a moment, but I don't think they took me for a tourist either, which is good enough.

Nobody called me an expat, needless to say, which in the end might just prove to be a pretentious device of displaced souls trying to invent an identity for themselves.

I think I'm gonna drop it, although it does complicate the response to the common question, "So what exactly are you, then?" I can never quite bring myself to say "A child of the universe," even if that probably does get the closest.

© 2011
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Paris and I ~ 'Past, President & Future'

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Past, President & Future ~

Past, Present & Future, originally uploaded by Paris Set Me Free.

Three generations of presidents, or that's what the press might like us to believe.

Bottom right, fading softly into the mists of time, past glories firmly assumed, the old guard gets on with less political matters. This particular turn of phrase, translated directly into English, always makes me smile: "Chirac: a happy moment - He marries his daughter Claude".

And don't they make a lovely couple?

Zipping diagonally up to top left, the image tells quite another story. Strangely enough, I don't remember many instances of Chirac looking quite so preoccupied. But then he was never called 'Tsarkozy', 'le Roi Sarko', 'Emperor Sarko I' or 'l'Omniprésident', which are a lot of not-so-affectionate sobriquets to live up to.

DSK, as Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the French economist, lawyer and politician is known, is also one of the hot favourites to run for president on the opposite side of the tracks to the present incumbent, despite having been supported by the latter in becoming the boss of the IMF. He looks assured and confident. Satisfied, almost.

Maybe he should cast a glance over to his right to see what happens after a few years in the highest office. That might make his smirk slip a little. Not that he's actually said he's running for president, yet. That's all the press trying to sell copies. And it looks like it works.

© 2011
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Paris and I ~ 'Into The Arena'

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Into The Arena ~

Into The Arena, originally uploaded by Paris Set Me Free.

Here is the recently discovered and renovated Roman amphitheatre discovered under the Gare Saint-Lazare looking splendid in its new furs and finery.

Incredible to think they were feeding Christians to the lions on this very spot just two short millennia ago.

Now we all get swallowed up every day by this gaping mouth of movement and morosity - it's not often you see a smiling face here as searching eyes stab out from the gapped teeth columns, desperately, pitifully looking for a sign, any sign, to help them work out how the hell they're supposed to get to line 14 form here in two minutes flat.

Them Saint-Lazare corridors, Jeez, let me tell ya, some of them ain't taking no prisoners; there's one particular change, I can't quite remember which it is, where you feel like you're walking for hours just to get from one line to another on platforms which are, nominally and apocryphally the same. Hypocrits.

They might not still be throwing innocent victims to the mercy of their feline friends, but sometimes it seems like there's really no way out of these labyrinths. Wave if you see Caesar.

What's your favourite Parisian metro challenge?

© 2011
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Paris and I ~ 'Arms In The Air Like You Don't Care'

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Arms In The Air Like You Don't Care ~

"Praise the Lord" I believe she be sayin', this big-bosomed brown wooden woman of exactly the sort you wouldn't expect to see in a Parisian parish church in the middle of Ménilmontant, but there you go, you see: all the more reason for pushing open doors and seeing what lies beyond.

There's practically a whole forest of these statues, with most of them being less voluptuous and more.. tree-like than this one, but they all have 'arms' up and discernable heads or faces or bodies of some sort. It's rather up-lifting when all's said and done, and good for the church for displaying them.

The work of a local artist, apparently, who literally lives up the road, and whose name I'd dearly love to remember, and accompanied by what I think is a poem, which I'm afraid I don't understand, so all in all I'm not doing very well really!

The poem is called 'Champ de Christ-Vénus', and the first verse is:

'Ils sont tous là les Corps du Christ-
Vénus ; l'Ame arrimée au sol.
Le bois se fait Verbe en s'ouvrant.'

Which very vaguely means something like: 'They are all there, the Bodies of the Venus-Christ; The soul stowed on the ground. The wood becomes the Word on opening.' Anyway.

I think, pretty obviously really, that these are faith-based works, nothing too ground-shaking in themselves, but nice to see something raw and real in the peaceful but ultimately hollow atmosphere of a large empty church.

The roughness of the pieces brings you closer to the artist and their feelings, ultimately.

And boy, is this place large! I mean... large! l'Eglise Notre-Dame de la Croix (Our Lady of the Cross) was started exactly 150 years ago and I always find the relative recentness of these places surprising.

It was in revolutionary times, of course, and this one was home to a 'club' of revolutionaries during the Paris Commune, which executed the Archbishop of Paris, amongst others, at the Roquette Prison in May 1871.

The more I look into the history of Paris, the clearer it is that you can't begin to guess what might happen in a few centuries or even decades or years from now. 19th Century uprisings seem far away, but two world wars are between then and now, as are the '68 student protests and the car-burning riots of 2005. The world is far from settled and I honestly feel lucky to be able to walk into this place and admire some sculptures in relative safety. Even if, ethnically, I'm without doubt a minority and perhaps an anomaly in the streets of today's Ménilmontant.

A picture of a 10-15 strong church choir, all teeth and smiles, has been pinned to the church noticeboard. The priest in the middle of the singers is white. Times are still interesting.

© 2011
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Paris and I ~ 'The Perfect Grime'

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ The Perfect Grime ~

The Perfect Grime, originally uploaded by Paris Set Me Free.

Luckily, not all metro stations are created, or maintained equal, bright and shiny, tip-top, spic-and-span, ship-shape, Bristol fashion. Think how boring that would be.

Jaurès is in a pleasing mess at the moment. Tiles dropping, water dripping, posters not even bothering to stay attached to the walls amongst the smudged graffiti, drinks machines simply giving up the ghost; lovely!

There always seem to be at least one or two platforms in a very permanent looking period of temporary renovation, in anticipation of 'our brand new station', as the posters tell us. The ones that haven't yet peeled off the profusely perspiring porcelain.

And funnily enough, the majority of these soon-to-be-unshitty stations (allegedly), seem to live on line 2.

Hey, wasn't there a train driver who's driven back and forth along line 2 for twenty years and brought out a book about it a year ago or so? Hmm, maybe he'll know what the story is. Watch this space, and shout if you see any signs of slippage.

© 2011
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Paris and I ~ 'Turquoise In Tunneltown'

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Turquoise In Tunneltown ~

Turquoise In Tunneltown, originally uploaded by Paris Set Me Free.

Forget the metro - let's go way down for a change.

Deep under the flowing boulevards and hustle and bustle of the city streets and even the incessant criss-crossing of the trains lies a much quieter place.

The phreatic layer. The water table. Paris is sitting on a liquid legacy, to such an extent that certain monumental buildings like the Opéra-Bastille and the new Quai Branly museum need to have hundreds of square metres of H2O pumped out of their basements and into the Seine every day. Or they'd break their moorings and simply float away down the river and across the English channel and end up at Dover or even half-way up the Thames if the wind was blowing in the right direction. No, honestly, they would!

The impression I had looking down into this surreal pit was unsettling, and it was difficult to decide if this really was water, or just a greeny-blue gauze that had been placed over the hole for aesthetic effect.

My 10c piece made an averagely realistic splash as it hit the surface in any case, and is now resting, peacefully I trust, at the bottom of Paris for posterity. I should have scratched my name into it really, just to intrigue excavators from the year 3571 who would have asked themselves who this strange 'Sab' character with his name engraved on his very own metal discs was. Probably some sort of pharaoh or something. But I didn't. I'll have to find some other form of imagined immortality I guess. How long does it take for pixels to wear out, anyone?

© 2011
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Paris and I ~ '20,000 Days Into Me'

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ 20,000 Days Into Me ~

20,000 Days Into Me, originally uploaded by Paris Set Me Free.

If I started this chronicle "If you piled up all the books that have been written about the Paris metro, you could probably reach to the moon and back; or the centre of the earth, at the very least..." you'd be fair in criticising my vapid clichés and hackneyed prose. And yet this phenomenon, this other-worldly labyrinth exists right below our feet and continues to intrigue us little sewer rats in our thousands.

Sometimes I wonder if I have a book in me - they say everyone has, you know, but I'm not sure. I think it takes a certain type of person to harness such discipline. And then to have something worth writing about, no small feat in itself!

Perhaps those I admire most are those who wrote timeless epics and sagas without the help of fancy word processors or on-line dictionaries or even anyone comparable to compare their work to. The likes of Dickens or Zola or Jules Verne. Now there are some masters worthy of admiration I'd say.

A book on the metro; should I even contemplate writing one or just be satisfied with someone else's as I ride the rails through Paris' subterranean reflection?

'A Journey To The Centre Of The Subway'? Nahh. 'Around The Network In Eighty Hours'? Hmm. 'Twenty Thousand Steps Under The City'? I dunno. They all sound so familiar somehow...

If I ended this chronicle telling you that I'm not quite 20,000 days into me yet, would you sneer at my vanity and pity my pride? Or simply smile at my youthful ingenuousness and hold back a tear?

STOP PRESS: "My Voyage 20,000 Layers Under My Skin At Maximum Warp Speed Around The Centre Of My Restless Mind" by Sab Will ~ Publication date: On-going.

© 2011
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Paris and I ~ 'Hug An Anhedonist Day'

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Hug An Anhedonist Day ~

Hug An Anhedonist Day, originally uploaded by Paris Set Me Free.

I've just discovered there's such a thing as an 'anhedonist', and I wanna be one / have one. Sounds a scream, doesn't it?

No, it sounds scary. Unimaginable. Sad. ly.

I actually found it in a rather pooh-, sorry I mean po-faced description of Eeyore on the new kinda-bring-everything-together site through a robot woman, called Qwiki (the site, not the woman - she's called Suki, probably).

I dunno. Is Eeyore an anhedonist, or just a pessimist or a misery-guts, and what's the difference?

I was chatting to a friend, a Dane, who was comparing a little skiing town to life in the Big P, and he wasn't impressed by the miserable attitude of most Parisians as he perceived it. People totally stressed out, having a fit if they can't squeeze into the last centimetre-cubed of metro carriage space in order to gain a precious minute and a half of some other aspect of their lives at the cost of a sardine sandwich for 300.

Looking around I do see potential anhedonists as I drift through the city, but on the whole I'm not pessimistic myself about things. I know it's all temporary, all the moods, the situations, the wild walkway rides, the moving ons, the staying the sames.

There are plenty of good people out there, and you're probably one of them, so if you do see a closet fun-lover, give them a hug today. You never know - they might just thank you for it!

© 2011
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Paris and I ~ 'Line Drawing'

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Line Drawing ~

Line Drawing, originally uploaded by Paris Set Me Free.

This was taken out of a window in the 3rd arrondissement of Paris, 4th floor, looking out on what was a pretty unremarkable view, or so it at first seemed.

And to make matters worse, from a photographic point of view, the café/bistro place which until about 5 seconds before I took this had been animated by some cheerful red neon lights, decided to turn them off, throwing the scene into morbid monotonous gloom.

However, thanks to some sly Sabotage I've pulled this smoldering ember from the seemingly soggy ashes... oh boy, I'll have to work on my metaphors, these are really pushing it.

The event was a book signing for a friend of mine, Priscilla Lalisse-Jespersen's latest book, called Next of Kin, which is a heart-rending but life-affirming tale of loss and love. She told me that it's not a book she's going to promote heavily - but more one she just had to get out there, and given the subject matter, that's understandable.

Prissy... you're a good 'un and it was a pleasure to see you this evening. This photo is dedicated to you in memory of your book signing - I hope you like it! I'll treasure mine.

© 2011
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Paris and I ~ 'Scarred To Death'

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Scarred To Death ~

Scarred To Death, originally uploaded by Paris Set Me Free.

My childhood scar was itching furiously as the attic door creaked open. And there they were.

In the slender rays seeping through the grimy skylight: five generations of skulls... of Wills.

I scraped at my brow.

From old granny Will top left to the one nearest.

With the scarred forehead...

© 2011
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Paris and I ~ 'Tracks Of My Years'

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Tracks Of My Years ~

Little triptych for you. Where are we? It doesn't matter. Well, Paris, obviously.

A grungy urban landscape rolling past my stationary train carriage, I'm not moving, you see, Think about it.

Where are you now? Are you moving or still? I've talked about this before, but it seems I'm not any clearer. Does the Earth spin below our feet as we pretend to walk, or is it just an illusion?

I was sitting on a train the other day, just pulling out of St. Lazare, as was the train opposite, in the same direction. All of a sudden I experienced a sensation of supreme calm and stillness, and watched, almost as if in a dream, the platform with its frozen commuters surreally slipping away from me between the two stationary trains.

It's quite an intriguing thought experiment to imagine things thus. Try it. It doesn't work so well if you're not actually moving, but if you're walking, or running or driving, where everything else around you is not, you can quite easily picture the world as your plaything, like a ball being spun by the feet of a supine circus elephant.

You know that sensation when you're driving on the motorway, and all of a sudden it feels like you're in a video game, with all the other cars and lamp posts rushing towards you as you remain stuck in the middle of the known universe? That's the same thing. But what is moving, in fact? Can you see the end of the line yet?

© 2011
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Paris and I ~ 'Blame It On My Wobbly Old Heart'

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Blame It On My Wobbly Old Heart ~

Ahhh, Valentine's Day. Don't you just love it?

Greetings card vendors scrambling over flower sellers to beat the chocolate companies and dinner-cruise promotors in the race to the key which will unlock your wallet's overflowing heart.

I'm only a day late in posting this message, but at least that gives me the chance to comment on all the on-time, on-message, oh-so-topical other posts out there. Did you notice, perchance, an unmistakable bulging of your inbox of the somewhat rosy variety yesterday? Me yes. And it wasn't particularly lovely to behold I'm afraid.

There were two types, if I've read them right. There were those trying to sell you something vaguely linked to a possible romantic outpouring of emotion and euros. And there were those who jumped on the usual bandwagon with cheesy pictures of anything heart-shaped they could possibly lay their mouse's (probably heart-shaped) pointer on, and those who did manage some original content don't seem to have made it further than the local cake shop's window display.

The most eye-wateringly unoriginal message I got yesterday from one of the endless list of Paris 'newsletters' I get and was entitled - get this - "The City of Love and Light". Wahey! A lot of effort went into that one, didn't it?!

Other desperate attempts include the wishy-washy "Paris Loves You", the utterly unoriginal "I Love Paris In The Springtime" (which it isn't), and the totally uninspired "Happy Valentine's Day". Yeah, right.

Slightly more inventive was "Today, there's a certain something in the air", and the link to the envigorating "" (I kill my wife) website which someone sent me. Awesome!

I won't mention anyone I'm in direct contact with so as not to get in too much trouble, but I know you all did what you thought best guys. Good on you.

In the end you can call me an incorrigibly cynical unromantic, but this wouldn't be accurate. I'm just... a late developper. Anyone who knows me will tell you that. Please hit them for me. Thank you.

© 2011
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.
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