Monday, 31 December 2012

They Burn Horses, Don't They?


Paris iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ They Burn Horses, Don't They? ~



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France is a funny old place these days. Whilst half the country is out celebrating the coming year of hoped-for good fortune on the 31st of December, the other half, it seems, is out setting fire to their motor vehicles. Not their own, other people's, obviously. Or not.

There's a theory that people are actually cashing in on the pyromaniacal frenzy by torching their own cars to claim the insurance money. Such are times.

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Hundreds of cars are regularly set fire to on New Year's Eve, to add to the thousands burnt throughout the year, generally by disaffected youth in an attempt to get people to acknowledge that they are still there and a force to be reckoned with. It's kind of scary. And of course most of it happens in less affluent areas, contributing to the social unrest and feeling of romping malaise.

Personally, I've never enjoyed big crowds, and certainly don't feel particularly at ease on occasions such as the Fête de la Musique or passing nearby the PSG football ground. The problem here is that young thugs from the suburbs come into town specially to cause problems. The night sets in and people get liquored up and more susceptible to being hassled or attacked. Nice.

For this reason I generally watch it all on telly from the comfort of my living room, adventurous old soul that I am. There probably won't be a running tally of how many cars have been burnt in each department - this ended up being like a league table of delinquency and just spurred the culprits on.

Whatever happens, I hope that your New Year is a good and relatively cool one, with no flames to fan but plenty of exciting plans and projects to ignite as January gets under way. Happy 2013.



And why not...
_________________________________________________________________________________
© 2012 
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

A Wee Bit o' History


Paris iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ A Wee Bit o' History ~

A Wee Bit o' History by Paris Set Me Free
A Wee Bit o' History, a photo by Paris Set Me Free on Flickr.


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Scottish origins. Everything's got Scottish origins these days. Well, all the whisky in the ads hoping people'll down litres of the stuff for hogmanay, that is. Except the Irish ones - for the inferior 'whiskey' - of which there are a handful still hanging around but not worth bothering with of course.

Scottish origins, hell, everything wants to have Scottish origins at this time of year. Shortbread and scones - that's scones that rhyme with 'swans', and not 'stones', bloody Sassenachs - tartan 'skirts' in Marks and Sparks - for the ladies, of course - real Scots men wear kilts with nought underneath and if you call it a skirt he'll likely floor ye. The Loch Ness monster. Mysterious mist-shrouded castles. Sean Connery for crying out loud.

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Scottish origins, I've got Scottish origins, for Ed's sake. Born, if not bred in Edinburgh, fair city, me. Never worn a kilt, like shortbread, don't like whisky except with coke and coffee - there's more than one who would question my claim to being flavour of the end of the month at this time of year with my pale Gaelic roots showing through.

Whatever, the origins are there and I don't think I've ever let someone saying 'Oh, you're English' get away with it, despite my RP accent and southern upbringing.

The Scots and the French supposedly get on like an English cottage on fire, as do the Irish and the Welsh - we've all been at war with the English at sometime in the past, after all.

Which begs the question: who actually does like the English? Even I can't say I'm a big fan, although try telling me that Faulty Towers and The Office aren't the best thing since sliced lamb and mint sauce and I'll floor ye. Oops, that's my wee Scottish origins showing through again.



And why not...
_________________________________________________________________________________
© 2012 
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

McDonalds Breakfast


Paris iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ McDonalds Breakfast ~

McDonalds Breakfast by Paris Set Me Free
McDonalds Breakfast, a photo by Paris Set Me Free on Flickr.


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There's nothing quite like tucking into a hearty McDonald's breakfast, looking out on Paris over the wooly-hatted head of the guy who just about managed to scrape together enough coppers to get a meagre coffee to go with his scavenged dog-end.

I'm inside and he's out, which I'm quite glad about as he stank, and yet he could have stayed in the warmth for a while - I wonder why he didn't.

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Having said that, he's already said hello to two passing buddies in similar states to him, two more than I have so far today. I'm sure he's got more friends than I have, whatever state he's in.

If he'd asked me for the price of an egg muffin I'd have surely given it to him but he didn't. Perhaps pride, perhaps he wasn't hungry, perhaps he preferred being hungry, hey, what do I know?

Luckily I've never been in the situation of not having enough to eat and don't know what that must be like. Hopefully I never will, although I've seen hints of it occasionally.

The closest I get today is this sort of situation, and much more often than I'd like - there are so many homeless people on the streets of Paris, it's difficult to know what to do to help.

Every year seems to throw me into this dilemma - why don't I do more, why don't I give more. Why don't I? But how much is enough? Is a smile and a kind word worth something? People say it is but sometimes it's so hard to give...



And why not...
_________________________________________________________________________________
© 2012 
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Pests


Paris iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Pests ~

Pests by Paris Set Me Free
Pests, a photo by Paris Set Me Free on Flickr.


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Heading into Paris on a slightly chilly Saturday morning to take pictures with my iPhone and Nikon with a fellow artist-client - what could be more delightful?

We're covering the Latin Quarter today, where this shot isn't, but there are still gems to be unearthed. Maybe I'll even get a nice sunrise from the train or from behind Notre Dame if I'm lucky.

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This curious store is in the Les Halles area and is the only one I know of of its kind in the city. 'Nuisance Animals', or 'Pests' is the name it's chosen, and in the window is a spectacular display of dead rats to prove it.

It must be a curious place to work, with such a morbid scene to greet you every day; the poor creatures - rats for the most part - are shown with their heads still trapped in the primitive mediaeval torture-looking device they were caught in back in the twenties I think it is.

They say that there's at least a rat for every one of the millions of Parisians in the city today. And apparently there's a policy to not eradicate them from the sewers as they perform quite a useful role in the removal of sewage from the underground city passages - yum yum!



And why not...
_________________________________________________________________________________
© 2012 
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Apocalypse Party


Paris iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Apocalypse Party ~

Apocalypse Party by Paris Set Me Free
Apocalypse Party, a photo by Paris Set Me Free on Flickr.


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The End is nigh. Of the year, that is. As we define it. There's no such thing as a beginning or end of the year of course. Same goes for centuries and millenia, it's all totally arbitrary, but we feel compelled to measure our meagre lot one way or another so let's get on with it.

2012 was unusual. I was sick all year. Officially. Which gave me an unusually large amount of time to do other things. What did I do? Did I use my time wisely? Am I satisfied with my progress? These are all questions that surface just after Christmas going into January 1st.

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Whatever the answers to those questions, I've learned not to regret. Regret is a killer. You end up thinking your whole life's a disaster if you go down that route. Learning's the way to go. Accept that you've learned a lot. I can go further. My Paris Photo Chronicles continued apace, save the slight hiccup recently when I had no iPhone, but I'm rapidly catching up on that I'm pleased to say.

I got a dog. This is weird, and I don't know exactly what I'm going to do with him in the future when I have to work seriously again, but there you have it. A beautiful dog. The best dog in the world - did you guess? If I'm the man, then Dasco's definitely The Dog!

I had an exhibition, well, attended an expensive art fair. Let's call that a learning experience nec plus ultra...

And that'll do for now. My partner may be losing her job shortly so twenty thirteen is sure to bring big changes one way or another. Change is good, and necessary. Without it, things stand still, and I have nothing to write about. That's the way I look at it. Not for everyone, but I wish you good change next year if that's what you want. Have an unusually good one.



And why not...
_________________________________________________________________________________
© 2012 
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Spanning The Century


Paris iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Spanning The Century ~

Spanning The Century by Paris Set Me Free
Spanning The Century, a photo by Paris Set Me Free on Flickr.


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Special events like this don't come along every day, but this is certainly one of those events and one of those days. It's my first jaunt out with my new iPhone 5 - that's right folks, I've got my hot sticky hands on it at last. But that's not all.

This photo, straight out of the camera with no postprocessing whatsoever, is the first ever I've taken using the fancy new panoramic function, and the results are amazing. I'm not saying this is an amazing shot - how could it be as my first attempt - and yet I'm still pretty excited about it.

The subject really lended itself to a panoramic treatment - the renovations at Les Halles from a viewing platform with about 180° worth of chaos to contemplate.

I had no idea - no, that's not true - I had a slight idea of what to do because a recent photo tour client had a new iPhone 5 and showed me how to do it. What surprised me at first was that you hold the phone vertically as you sweep it horizontally across the scene. When you consider the technology it makes sense really coz you get more top to bottom pixels for your efforts than if you held it landscape style. Counter-intuitive but logical in the end. And the results - well, this result - amazing.

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It's amazing because you literally can't see the joins. Maybe there aren't any for all I know or it's so sophisticated that 'joins' are totally last century probably! And despite being a torso swivelling virgin, and running out of twist at the end of the exposure, it's still ok.

You can see a couple of rather interesting artifacts which I'll have to think about. First of all the people on the right are a bit stretched out, which might be because of my dodgy panning. Secondly, you can see that the railing being so close to me has given it a definite curve which would have been less pronounced if there'd been more distance between us. Another learning experience from the very first shot.

And almost scarily, does this mean that I don't actually have to bother with all those complicated SLR panorama techniques you read about in photo mags and on enthusiasts' web sites any more? I never even got around to trying them out and now, as the quality of smart phones gets better and better, maybe I never will. Why reinvent the wheel, or go back to the metaphorical stone age of photography when the answer's right there in the palm of your hand?

The place is a mess, and it'll be fascinating to see how it pans out, if you'll pardon the expression. I'll keep you posted, of course. Let's swivel!



And why not...
_________________________________________________________________________________
© 2012 
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Yo Ho Ho and a Bile Duct Glum


Paris iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Yo Ho Ho and a Bile Duct Glum ~



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Why, you might wonder, am I up at 4.30 on Christmas morning. Moonlighting as Santa Claus, perhaps?

No, nothing as exotic as that, just a bout of gall bladder attack thanks to my excesses of the night before Christmas. Damn bile duct. Not that this is a chronicle of my personal health woes, but I just thought I'd give you an explanation or you might think I was an even bigger loser than you already do, typing away underneath the waxing sleigh (jingle jingle).

I've been adopted into a family where they do a big meal on the evening of the 24th. Fatty liver and salmon and champagne, that sort of thing. Hence my current sorry state.

Where I come from, Christmas eve is all about the anticipation of the day to come, last minute wrapping of presents and putting out milk for Santa and a carrot or a biscuit for Rudolf, or was it the other way round? I can still remember the delicious rustling coming from downstairs as I tried to get to sleep up in my bedroom as a little nipper.

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I'm also in a family where, without going into detail, my 3-year-old son was yesterday told that we were celebrating the birthday of 'little baby Jesus'. I reckon it's a symbolic thing, although some members of my hispanic family seem to give at least a nod to the affair, so it's pretty deeply entrenched. "Don't let the angels hear you saying that..!" Oh dear.

Whatever, believing in simply one less god that your average religious person, I just get on with the usual preparations, 'celebrations' and general feasting and overdoing it as usual. The family aspect of it is nice, of course, and I'm as much of a fan as the next person, especially for the little ones.

It's tradition, after all, and without traditions where would we be as a culture. As traditions go, there's worse than Christmas, so have a good one.

The medicine seems to be working so I'm back off to bed before getting up again in about an hour and a half probably, zombie-like, to start opening presents. Ho ho ho.



And why not...
_________________________________________________________________________________
© 2012 
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Not Uplifting But Falling


Paris iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Not Uplifting But Falling ~



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Either they had a particularly good run up to the Christmas period, or this lingerie remainders store has seen better days.

Although it's not in the Sentier or the 12th arrondissement it's typical of many of the cheap clothing stores in those areas.

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There's something surreal about the naked mannekins, the violent pink facade and the ripped up poster advertising... what? Maybe that the shop's now free for another bad idea for a business?

As I've already said though, in this climate this sad sight is not at all uncommon. Times are tough. Especially in the cut-throat cut-price clothing industry currently being ravaged even more by ultra-cheap imports from China and the like.

Then again, if we believe the panel which says there are (were) regular arrivals from the top brands at up to 60% off, then the small fish are not the only ones suffering.

Whatever the truth, I certainly never helped them out, as my purchasing of hand-me-down ladies underwear has been minimal these last few years. Marks and Spencer and C & A usually do me just fine, sexy beast that I am. Grrr.



And why not...
_________________________________________________________________________________
© 2012 
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Socratic Racer


Paris iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Socratic Racer ~

Socratic Racer by Paris Set Me Free
Socratic Racer, a photo by Paris Set Me Free on Flickr.


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I've been thinking about different types of photography, and techniques and approaches and whatnot, and it occurs to me that there are three main types of photo: crap, normal and artistic.

I would argue that most people take either normal or crap shots, with artistic being the elite category to aim for. It's what I aim for. However, if you were tempted to place the above photo in the 'crap' category I wouldn't be surprised.

It's actually very difficult to take a 'bad' photo, which you'll notice wasn't a category, because there's a difference between 'bad' and simply 'crap'.

'Bad', I would suggest, is a sub-category of 'normal'. 'Normal' is a typical tourist shot and there's nothing wrong with that - it's what most people do and what most people enjoy looking back at as part of their cherished memories from wherever they've been. Cool. 'Bad' is when the pics are out of focus, lamp posts growing out of people's heads, rubbish bins framing the main action, that sort of thing.

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So 'bad' is when people lack certain basic techniques or concepts. As far as sharpness is concerned, you have to try pretty hard these days to actually take a blurry photo, as most devices are programmed to prevent you, as far as is mechanically possible, from doing so, intransigent human stupidity notwithstanding.

'Crap' is a whole different ball park. If 'bad' is when 'normal' goes wrong, 'crap' is when 'artistic' just... isn't. It's a sort of glorified 'bad', if you will.

I know about 'normal', and I'm pretty good at avoiding 'bad' these days. Which leaves 'artistic' and 'crap' as the two categories my photos are most likely to fall into. Percentages? Hey, don't push it!

The photo above has a lot of issues, mainly linked to the lighting being dire - late at night, no street lamps, final pic pushed to oblivion to try to get a usable image...

So 'grungy' effects are one thing, but this may be taking it a bit too far, I admit. There is artistic merit, with the mass of vertical lines, the jaunty angle, the bizarre racing-helmet-holding guy off to the left, the enigmatic 'What' and is that a sneaky 'wank' I spot - probably not. But the lack of overall quality might push it over the edge from the artistic into the purely crap category.

Not that there's anything Socratically wrong with producing crap - it means you're aiming for artistic, and hopefully learning from your mistakes.

They say that being aware of something (such as a weakness) is the first step in being able to do something about it, so I draw comfort from that at least.



And why not...
_________________________________________________________________________________
© 2012 
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Feeling Phased


Paris iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Feeling Phased ~

Feeling Phased by Paris Set Me Free
Feeling Phased, a photo by Paris Set Me Free on Flickr.


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Phases... I'm going through phases, as Ozzy might have sung but chose changes instead.

This picture represents a phase of mine, when I stuck up some of my 3x3 tiled infinity squared art up on the streets of Paris. That was a phase.

You could say that this blog is a phase, but it's been going, more or less daily, for nearly three years now, so if it's a phase it's a long one.

English teaching was a phase, as was training teachers and writing an English language teaching book. Poetry is an on-going, on and off phase, when inspiration hits.

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Photo tours are a long strung out phase. Sales rep for a computer company was a phase. Watersports instructing was a phase. Wedding photography was a phase. Waiting in a restaurant was a phase. Running a language school in Greece was a phase. Being married was a phase.

You'd be forgiven for thinking I'm feeling a bit fazed at the moment and you wouldn't be wrong.

Life's a succession of phases, but I guess some people's phases last longer than others'. Mine are short to medium term, which isn't always a good thing but I've come to realise there's not much I can do about it.

What I'm not so good at is long phases. More than a few months or years at the same thing. That's tricky; that's not me. I mean, it is or it can be. But in general it's the exception which proves the rule.

I think I'm looking for longer phases these days mind you. I've got kids, I've got responsibilities. And I think I've found where I can be happy, in two realms - the artistic and the intellectual, through photography, art, poetry and writing for the former, and the world of English teaching for the latter.

Paris and I is a beautiful phase although I do wonder how long I can keep it up. Can I honestly find a worthwhile photo and something interesting to say from now until I die? I doubt it, but I'm hoping this will be one of my longer phases. I owe it to myself.



And why not...
_________________________________________________________________________________
© 2012 
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Bookshop at the End of the Universe


Paris iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Bookshop at the End of the Universe ~



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You've heard of the Restaurant at the End of the Universe... well here's the Bookshop.

It's not actually, unless the world does end very shortly indeed, in which case it will be so for me.

It's actually called the Librairie des Alpes and is one of those half cute half sad little places. You always wonder how they manage to make covers meet, never mind make a living, as no-one ever seems to go in or out.

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Whether or not it actually specialises in books about the Alpes I'm ashamed to tell you... I can't tell you. I was simply intrigued by actually seeing someone go in, although the parked bike is somewhat optimistic I suppose. En route for the heights, perhaps?

So, it's now officially the 21st of the 12th month of 2012, here in France at least, and so far, so good the internet connection, which has to be a good sign.

For those of you reading this many moons from now, the world was once again supposed to end, this time according to a Mayan calender which ended, errr, now.

My favourite cartoon was of someone asking a Mayan calendar maker if he fancied a tequila, to which he responds, well, I shouldn't but I guess if I don't finish this it won't be the end of the world.

We shall see, or rather, we are seeing, and that shall be my last post on the matter, at least until the next meltdown. Think I'll get a book on mountaineering or something - I'm sure the end of the world will take a while to get up there with a bit of luck.



And why not...
_________________________________________________________________________________
© 2012 
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Maybe, and Other Fables


Paris iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Digging In The Dirt ~



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This is probably as good an indication as any as to what I think of Mayan, or any other prophesies for that matter.

It wouldn't be so bad if some of them came true from time to time.

Well, the end-of-the-world ones would be pretty bad, obviously, but they never do, come true.

They're all, or almost all, from other times when we knew so much less about how things work and what it might be reasonable to predict amongst other things.

Talking of predictions, I really should have predicted that Gregos would become one of the best known street artists in the city, about three or four years ago when he was just getting going with his faces on the walls of Paris.

The one we're looking at here is perfectly official - he's moved over! - above a prestigious gallery sign in the Place des Vosges, of all places. I guess you could say he's arrived.

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I sometimes wonder just how long you have to keep doing something, recognisable, original and good enough, before the tipping point comes and you are suddenly, as it were... famous.

Gregos has done it; I haven't. At least not to my knowledge. Not that I'm screaming for fame - far from it - but I am hoping that peope like my ramblings about Paris and photos and occasionally the more personal musings.

I've got it; I have to be dead. Then my true genius will be surely recognised. I'd better start preparing my kids right now. Being the son or the daughter of... is often a difficult experience and I wouldn't want them to suffer from it.

Maybe I'll tone down my outpourings and reduce my output; take it easy for a bit, quoi.

Maybe I'm losing it faster than I thought. Maybe that's Gregos pointing down at my writings and helping me understand their true worth. Maybe tomorrow none of this will matter. Is that a plane outside I hear or the rumble of an approaching asteroid? Maybe the Great Spaghetti Monster in the sky theory is true. Maybe I'm gonna live forever. Maybe I've said enough. Maybe. I'll tell you tomorrow. Or not.



And why not...
_________________________________________________________________________________
© 2012 
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.
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