Thursday, 30 June 2011

Paris and I ~ 'Assuredly Comforting'

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Assuredly Comforting ~

Assuredly Comforting, originally uploaded by Paris Set Me Free.

BONUS: For Street Photography Fans!

"When the bank which belongs to its customers insures them, that changes everything" says the poster.

I'm not really very sure what it means, but it's just fancy marketing blah-blah in the end, so it doesn't really have any significance I guess.

There is a certain irony, though, to see how the bank (or its doorway in any case) is unwittingly providing a certain kind of assurance to someone who I would think is probably not one of their customers. Indeed, they are practically providing a home, albeit a purely nocturnal one, in a highly sought after central Paris district, free of charge, and when you think how difficult it is to extract money out of them for practically anything these days, this is quite remarkable in itself.

So let's hear it for Crédit Mutuel: you don't even have to be a client and they'll put you up for free all over the city; now that's what I call customer service.

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

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Paris and I ~ 'Doing The Gold Ring Fling Thing'

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Doing The Gold Ring Fling Thing ~

BONUS: For Street Photography Fans!

These guys are great, there's a whole bunch of them who hang around the Passerelle Solférino just next to the Gare Musée d'Orsay which I'm using quite a bit at the moment.

Their dodginess is rivalled only by their wacky schemes for extracting money from you.

The one we see here is quite bona fide, if illegal of course: buying little packs of water from the cheapest supermarket they can find and then selling them from a bucket at a 600% markup to parched tourists.

The other one they are really hammering at the moment is the old 'found a gold ring' ruse. It's so ridiculous it's hilarious.

What they do is, as you're walking past them they crouch down and pretend to have found a shiny gold ring. Techniques vary, but they will often ask you if you dropped it, and you thinking it's very valuable pretend you did and give them a few euros for their honesty, and to ease your conscience for being a greedy liar, so if you do fall for the trick (the ring's practically worthless) you almost deserve to be duped anyway!

The very first time I had it tried on me was years ago, and although I wasn't taken in, there was a moment's temptation I have to admit.

Other schemes include signing some petition or other and then being asked to contribute something towards 'the cause', which is, of course, non-existant. I'm afraid to say, although without absolute certainty, that it almost always tends to be Romanian types, both men and women (and boys and girls) who are doing most of this stuff, and they are probably the same ones I've already written about who come in from their gypsy encampments along various rivers and motorways in the twilight zones of the suburbs.

What you do have to admit, though, is that they're enterprising. OK, there are those who simply beg, but most of the time these guys are either selling something somewhere, however tacky or cheap, or have invented some money extraction scheme in the best entrepreneurial spirit.

I still don't see how they manage to eke out a living though, as I've rarely seen anyone fall for their tricks. What a strange existence that must be, a world away from comfortable middle-class meandering through life with the proverbial 'proper' job. I can't say they don't get me thinking anyway.

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

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Paris and I ~ 'Padlocked In Paris'

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Padlocked In Paris ~

Padlocked In Paris, originally uploaded by Paris Set Me Free.

BONUS: For Street Photography Fans!

This picture was one of those I used in the Paris If You Please Quiz the other evening, and the question was: "Which bridge are they sitting on, and which bridge are they looking at?"

The answer to the first is Passerelle Solferino, a pedestrian bridge, which of course some bright spark claimed wasn't a bridge as it is called a passerelle and to be honest I'm not quite sure of the difference.

The second bridge, the one the colourful couple are contemplating... well, no-one actually got this first time round either. So I gave them a clue. The clue was one word: 'King'. Still no-one got it.

And the bridge, which as you can see goes across from the left bank right into the Louvre, is called Pont Royal.

The Passage Solferino is one of maybe four or five Paris bridges which are currently prey to a peculiar tryst-making tirade: that of closing a padlock on the railings and throwing the keys away.

It was quite a cute curiosity when it first appeared on the Pont des Arts and that little one going over to Notre Dame, Pont de l'Archevêché.

But now I have to say it's getting out of hand. There's more locks than bridges these days, and in some cases those lacking padlocks spontaneously wrap... plastic supermarket bags around the metal and the result is a god-awful mess. Romantic, huh!

My intuition tells me that one day soon the Paris Town Hall is going to say 'un oeuf eez un oeuf' and come along with some heavy duty pliers and get rid of them all, breaking a million lovers' hearts in the process. Either that or the entire bridge is in danger of going down and leaving us all in the swim.

And what about you? I'm very curious about what YOU make of this phenomenon. Do you think it's the height of romanticism to leave a monikered padlock on a Paris bridge, or the height of tourist kitch? Personally... hmm, now just what do I think..?

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

Monday, 27 June 2011

Paris and I ~ 'Number 7: Your Time Is Up'

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Number 7: Your Time Is Up ~

BONUS: For Street Photography Fans!

Not for one moment could you imagine my delight in discovering this half eroded, rust-bitten flea-ridden enamel panel, hidden away in the back streets of the 17th, I do believe it was...

The 'S' is missing, the sign says 'SERVICE', which would indicate the old servants' entrance. And what an entrance it is. The staircase which was dedicated to them has left a singularly... angular legacy, and it's particularly pleasing to contemplate, from the historian and old Paris pervert's point of view.

The entire staircase is outlined in the architecture, and a pretty sight it is indeed, although it may not always have been so. It's there for you to check out. Let me know what you think.

You might have to walk around a bit to find it though, as I can't seem to remember where it is for the life of me ;~S

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

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Paris and I ~ 'And So I Run'

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ And So I Run ~

And So I Run, originally uploaded by Paris Set Me Free.

BONUS: For Street Photography Fans!

This makes me think of a poem ~ I poeticise, y'know ~ and I'll share the first two verses with you now. I know it had a great rhythm, back in the day, something like the sound of pounding, as I mercilessly covered the concrete. I've lost it now, but maybe you can rediscover it for me... (and it's about to rain after days of suffocating heat, how's that for synchronicity?)

Pounding soggy concrete
Into dripping dust
Under jackhammer pumps
My thighs
Clear yawning clawing
Chasms lurking between
Each paving stone

With an easy leap, I laugh
Alone, I am reborn
Invincible, the rain soothes me
Balms me, bathes me
Cleansing, nothing
Can stop me now

P.S. The pic is of a wild Paris artistic haven of the likes I could only dream of inhabiting. It goes by the name of 'Les Frigos' (the Fridges) because... that's what it is. Artists' studios in enormous disembobulated, well... fridges. What did you expect?

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

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Paris and I ~ 'Blue For A Boy'

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Blue For A Boy ~

Blue For A Boy, originally uploaded by Paris Set Me Free.

BONUS: For Street Photography Fans!

Warning: Smarties are now available in all good supermarkets in Paris, and they're just as easy to gobble down as back home.

Dangerous places to open them are in the train, walking along the street or sitting watching a film.

There are two ways of eating them: crunching right into them or sucking away until the crisp sugar coating gives way and you are through to the melting chocolate. The second method is practically impossible to do.

They generally come in five-packs and they contain Calories. Big ones. The best thing is not to start in the first place. Don't even think about it. Just say no. This is practically impossible to do.

I speak from experience. I go through phases. I have good days and I have bad days. I have on days and I have off days. I have dumb days and I have Smart days.

I like the blue ones best.

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

Friday, 24 June 2011

Paris and I ~ 'In The Absence Of Evidence'

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ In The Absence Of Evidence ~

BONUS: For Street Photography Fans!

"What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence" said a rational man once. We are tempted to believe we can fly, by placing ourselves in slender silver slivers and traversing oceans in awkward armchairs.

In the absence of evidence, how I envy the park keeper; tending his lawns in the early morn as I chomp on my pre-work sandwich.

In the absence of evidence, how I loathe the window cleaner, sure of his day as he drips his dirty drops on the heads of the worker ants scurrying by.

In the absence of evidence, we might imagine the world flat as a pancake, while we now know it's round as a football, being kicked around the universe, just like the one above, in front of the Paris town hall for the jolly month of July.

Isn't it? You've gotta love evidence.

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

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Paris and I ~ 'White's All Right'

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ White's All Right ~

White's All Right, originally uploaded by Paris Set Me Free.

BONUS: For Street Photography Fans!

This Saturday I'm going to a not-particularly-serious rowing regatta (Read: messing about in boats, sorry Melissa ;-) where the Dress Code is white. Umm, I generally do black, or blues, greys and oranges with a bit of violet thrown in for good measure. But I NEVER do white.

There's another event in my inbox where the theme is 'monochrome'. Sounds suspiciously like black (ok so far) and 'white', yikes, there it is again!

Now I'm passing an ad in the metro for the two-tone ska group, The Specials, playing Paris in September, you can guess what colour the poster is.

And what's this? A black and white cop car, straight out of the sixties(?), sitting on a Paris sidewalk?

And just when I thought I'd finally found my 'thing'', my long-sought photographic style, with saturated colours imbuing everything in sight...

It looks like Paris is out to thwart me once more, or maybe inspire me to greater height and sights and hues.

I guess when all's said and done, and I've pressed the shutter button one last time, like the old cricketer, about to leave the crease, if you had to sum up my life and work in a phrase, you'd be forced to colour me Paris.

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

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Paris and I ~ 'Let Me Take You There'

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Let Me Take You There ~

Let Me Take You There, originally uploaded by Paris Set Me Free.
BONUS: For Street Photography Fans!

And so the new week begins, with me wondering what the next few days will bring in the shape of strikes, set-backs and other annoying things beginning with 's'.

Retardé means 'delayed' but also 'retarded' in French, and sometimes you have to wonder about the mentality of some of the users of Parisian public transport these days. I think I've already sounded off (about a year ago, I seem to recall) about the funny young chaps who pull the alarm just before getting off to go to school; hilarious.

I can't even remember what the problem above was, but it was either a fire down the line, someone actually on the line, a strike or a technical problem of some kind, due either to the heat, the cold or the wrong sort of something somewhere no doubt, take your pick.

Must say I'm rather intrigued by the combination of blues, purply-pink and grimed-out rich sepia which has popped out of the post-processing wash this time.

'The Paris-Ile-de-France train system takes you there!' shouts the slogan on the side of the carriage. 'If you're lucky, ironises back the screen. The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in between.
© 2011
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Paris and I ~ 'Let's Have A Food Fight'

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Let's Have A Food Fight ~

Let's Have A Food Fight, originally uploaded by Paris Set Me Free.

BONUS: For Street Photography Fans!

Admittedly, while I'm publishing a picture of a lamppost here today I'd rather have been showing you a guy on rollerblades in mid-air somewhere between the top of the steps of Sacré Coeur and the gardens below. I'd rather have been but I'm not, so I'll have to leave one or two good friends to fulfil that role for you.

Nope, high-flyers are not for us today, but low-growlers, in the form of 'France Action Jeunesse', as publicised on this friendly local neighbourhood lighting device.

It caught my eye for several reasons. First of all, it's bright and colourful, which is always a good start. Secondly, it's unashamedly nationalist, whilst simultaneously stigmatising both the Americans and Islam, which is much less common.

The first paragraph on their web site's 'Qui sommes-nous?' page goes something like this (my translation):

"We are Valdoisians [from the Valley of the Oise river, just to the south of the capital], attached to traditional values, such as religion and patriotism, glorifying the family and the work of each person, practising mutual assistance, respect and practice of the traditions and customs of our lands."

What we are to make of this I'm not sure. Most politically motivated tracts stuck up by 'the young' in and around Paris these days tend to be resolutely republican, not to say revolutionary or anarchistic in message. This one, however, whilst certainly nationalistic, kind of throws a spanner into the works with its up-front mention of religion, which is generally considered anathema to your average revolutionary and symbols thereof tend to get roughed up or torn down in the same swipe as royalist monikers of any kind.

So they're royalists then? And yet they make no mention of 'king' and country, just plenty about the country bit.

It's refreshingly thought-provoking to see Americans and Muslims both being negatively stereotyped as destroyers of the good ol' French ham sandwich through the evil dollar-churning burger or the sinister kebab. This would all be quite logical if they were both being held up as examples of the ludicrousness and excesses of religion ("Our God's the best" - "No, OURS is..."). Unfortunately, however, it seems that 'France Youth Action' seem to think that God (a new one with 'Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité' tattooed across his chest and his beard dyed bleu-blanc-rouge, perhaps) is actually on the side of the jambon et beure baguette munchers.

Oh dear. My personal take on all this is too confused to articulate. My opinion, on the other hand, I will share here.

I don't like the idea of burgers because of what we read about the conditions of the cows and chickens used to make them and the poor health aspects of the things. Unfortunately, for whatever reason or other (cheap, apparently tasty, convenient - on every street corner...) I succumb on far too regular a basis.

I don't like the idea of kebabs too much either because you never really know what you're eating or the conditions in which the meat has been stored but again, it tastes pretty good and is equally cheap and just a little, well, less 'American' than a burger. As to the rituals used to kill meat fit for Muslim consumption, well unfortunately even companies like KFC are apparently killing their chickens with a swift throat slit in the general direction of Mecca (even if we know that isn't practicable, but they've luckily found a way to 'do' the whole establishment in one go - phew!). So more hypocrisy on my part I guess.

And then there's the good ol' jambon-beurre. Frankly, I hardly ever take the basic option, as fromage is too deeply rooted in my religious views to be ignored, so it's a jambon-fromage-beurre for me, s'il vous plaît.

Do I believe that French piggies are healthier than US beef and chickens or Islamic... well, whatever it is? Maybe. Do I worry about the encroaching Islamo-Americanisation of the staple Gallic lunchtime munch? No, not really, traditional sandwiches still fly off the shelves of all the boulangeries I frequent as far as I can see. Do I feel that food extremism of any kind, be it mass-produced American mush, ritually killed Islamic ignominy or even the sadly minimalist ham-and-butter baguette is not a particularly good thing? Yes, I think I do.

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

Monday, 20 June 2011

Loving The Unknown

Loving The Unknown, originally uploaded by Paris Set Me Free.

And there she was. Don't get me wrong; I'm not obsessed, just obsessively interested. Not quite the same, but not far off.

After all, how often do you glimpse a girl, or a guy, whatever, and wonder, what if, what if, what if..? I'm sure it's quite normal.

And yet, what if she really were the one for me, no messing no lying, that down-looking gaze of a million tragedies, that playful finger, that wretched wrist, that cunning calf, that twisted ankle.

Don't you just love the unknown? And there she went...


Sunday, 19 June 2011

Paris and I ~ 'A Second Tragedy'

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ A Second Tragedy ~

A Second Tragedy, originally uploaded by Paris Set Me Free.

BONUS: For Street Photography Fans!

Am I the only one out here for whom time necessarily has to STOP.

Whenever all the digits on one's darned digital watch or a given passing platform clock are about to swing into synchronicity?

As you can see, here I missed it by a second. A tragic loss to those of us who are so declined, as I'm not sure you can understand. Try collecting stamps or coins or bottle tops or something, then maybe (I said 'maybe') we can facemail some time...

"But what was The First (tragedy)?", I hear you sigh. Well, THAT deserves a real ticking off, because you obviously haven't been paying attention if you need to ask such an obvious question. I'll put it down to a temporary hiccup; a momentary lapse of reason, if you will.

Pink Floyd would be proud of you.

Of course, obviously, without a second's hesitation, it goes without saying, in the blink of an eye, in the bat of a wing's beat, the flash of an eyeful, the First Tragedy was...

The First Tragedy was...

The first tragedy was being born in the first place, because there's No Way we will ever have time to discover all the Smiths and Beatles and Richard Thompson and Joni and Kate and Tracy and Black Uhuru and Terry Jacks and Slade and Brel and Momus and Clash and Bl*ck S*bb*th and Led Zep and Bjork and Burial and Neil Young and Ministry and Broadcaster and XTC tracks and many many others who could make our lives a little more meaning full.

And everyone else who knew me.

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

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Rip Van Winkle

IMG_7557, originally uploaded by Paris Set Me Free.

The van vandals. Have you ever wondered just how, when, who and even why someone would have gone to the trouble (and then watch it drive away)..?

Most of it isn't art. It's generally people's nicknames, which don't say much except what they say. Which isn't art, because art says much more than it 'says'.

Is a big yellow, paint can-clutching 'Mr. Happy' on the backside of a van in the 17th arrondissement of Paris on a mixed emotional night 'art'? Can you answer that yourself? Could I ever answer that for you?

I'll tell you one thing though: he's cool, I like him. He's happy and hopelessly carefree, letting it all hang loose; I'd like to see more Mr. Mini-Happys, for our sake, for art's sake, for goodness' sake.

(A Paris iPhone street photograph by Sab Will for the 'Paris and I' photo blog @ )

Friday, 17 June 2011

Legless or Legacy?

IMG_7554, originally uploaded by Paris Set Me Free.

"You're pulling my leg, right? What is this photo! Call this photography? Are you twisted, or what?"

Well I don't know. What do you think? There's two ways of looking at this: first of all, I didn't invent the cripple. He was coasting through the Gare du Nord for all to see. This is life.

On the other hand, I photographed him. Is that right? Is that honourable? Is this life?

We generally think photographs of war and suffering are difficult to stomach, but we look at them anyway, in our daily newspapers or glossy weekly magazines. And we generally think positively about the photographer, having the courage and mettle to get to the heart of the action, to bring us our Sunday sofa truths, often at great personal risk or peril to him or herself.

But occasionally we wonder what sort of person could live with themselves, putting admittedly agonising lens choices and split-second aperture and shutter speed settings above just putting the camera down and Going To Help. I know it's a question war photographers do actually battle with every day, for most of them.

And on what an infinitely smaller scale is my grab shot of the Gard du Nord invalid. And yet, some of the fundamental ethical questions are the same.

I took the shot. This is Paris. You looked at it. What did you think? Can my photo stand up tall, or doesn't it have a leg to stand on? Don't forget my words are inseparable from my pictures; there is no dividing line for me. One inspires the other, and vice versa. Take one away, and the other fails and falls, like a lame man and his cane. Whether together they form an edifice worth contemplating... is anybody's guess, and yours is as good as mine.

(A Paris iPhone street photograph by Sab Will for the 'Paris and I' photo blog @ )

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Do Doves Cry?

IMG_7551, originally uploaded by Paris Set Me Free.

Inspiration and inclinations to poeticise have been pretty rare over the last few years, and I tried to convince myself that this was because I was happier than before and, needing heartache and angst to spur me into bittersweet poetic motion, that this was, on the whole, a Good Thing.

This explanation doesn't please me much, however, thereby negating the whole premiss which, on the other hand, does place a wry smile upon my lips.

Whatever, the point is I'm just not writing, poetry at least, and I'd be interested to know why.

I know why. It's because I'm photographing and chronicling my Paris life. I should have realised I couldn't survive without emptying my head of a million smouldering thoughts and sensations one way or another. Poetry hasn't fitted the bill recently; pictures have done just fine though. A shift of creative focus but no reduction in intensity. I've temporarily flipped channels, but the song remains the same.

My creative outlet could very easily have been music ~ I loved it as soon as I discovered it ~ but I soon realised that the pleasure of enjoying other's mellifluous efforts far outweighed any cacophonous attempts of my own to produce musical sounds. The graveyard of unused guitars, synthesizers,

And then words came naturally, and photographic images also. It seemed that my pen or tapping fingers were being supplied from an inexhaustible reservoir of pleasantly purple prose. Rhymes and rhythms had apparenty been included as an option.

And then the pictures. With one twitch of my hand I could capture a universe of emotions on a sliver of light-sensitive film.

I've rambled enough. At least my mind can still do that. My earthly body has been slumped on a giant stationary worm in a lair called Musée d'Orsay station, thanks to some morons' handiwork somewhere down the line.

Without which you wouldn't be reading these lines, it's as simple as that. Whether that's a positive thing is really not for me to say. No point crying about it. No crocodile tears are gonna get this thing moving any faster. And as for pigeons pretending to be doves, well hey, I think I've been doing that most of my life. Either that or my sheepish words have a wolfish twinkle in their eye. Y'all have a nice day, now ~ "Aaooowwwwwww..."!

(A Paris iPhone street photograph by Sab Will for the 'Paris and I' photo blog @ )

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Easy Living

Easy Living, originally uploaded by Paris Set Me Free.

You could almost imagine a touch of the Janice Joplins about the above scene, no? My first surprise encounter with the Fête de la Musique a couple of days ago, as I'd forgotten it was mid-summer's night, and this accapella troup were performing some nice if rather subdued numbers for and appreciative corner café audience in the 2nd arrondissement.

As I'd forgotten and had to get home I only had time to take a couple of grab shots, for what they're worth.

I read an article yesterday saying that due to a booze prohibition order in some of the city's liveliest areas, such as the Butte aux Cailles, the party risked turning into a bit of a non-event. Whether this was the case I couldn't say, but around St. Michel, as I said in my related post, things were swinging along nicely. Happy Summertime.

(A Paris iPhone street photograph by Sab Will for the 'Paris and I' photo blog @ )

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Paris and I ~ 'Smoke And The City'

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Smoke And The City ~

Smoke And The City, originally uploaded by Paris Set Me Free.

BONUS: For Street Photography Fans!

Paris has a good sense of humour, I'll give it that.

Tucked away discretely on the Rue Saint Lazare in the 9th arrondissement, right next to a cheapo little household linen store, lies... the City of London, rain an' all.

Yes, no less, no more, by George, it's the jolly Old Smoke itself. So now if I'm ever feeling homesick, which is approximately never, admittedly, I'll go for a wander and if I'm really down I can even continue my promenade along the adjacent Rue de Londres if I feel so inclined.

Paris is indeed well known for incorporating bits of other world famous cities into its make-up, and in this quarter in particular. Just a stone's throw from the aforementioned Cité de Londres, we can enjoy exotic strolls (if you use your imagination a bit) along the Rue d'Athènes, Rue de Rome, Rue d'Amsterdam, Rue de Milan, Rue de Madrid, Rue de Constantinople and Rue d'Edimbourg (the city of my birth), and that's just in the 9th (and a bit of the 8th)!

You see, there's really no need to leave the city to travel the world. Which is precisely what I did. I mean didn't. Oh, you know what I mean, don't you? I'm still here.

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