Saturday, October 29, 2005

Une Fresque Parisienne No.4

Welcome to part 4, which could equally be called 'The Lamppost Edition', as a lamppost features proudly in each of the photographs shown here.

In fact, ornate, omnipresent lampposts are an unmistakable and inescapable part of the Parisian skyscape. My daughter's mother used to have quite a thing about them, and I think some of that's rubbed off on me, coz they seem to often crop up in my pics.

And there is something about them, these solitary sentinels, lighting up the city, stretching heavenward optimistically.

They are exceptionally useful elements to include in pics because not only are they often very photogenic in their own right, they often highlight other parts of the shot, either by echoing something tall and thin, as here, or be contrasting starkly with something long and horizontal, such as the horizon or skyline, for example.

In the second shot, it's the same church, again with a lamppost, but it's a very different take on the subject. This beautiful and strange church is just at the end of my road, and here there is a strong dynamic between the lines of the spire, the lamppost, and the roofs, none of which are vertical or horizontal, which makes for an arresting composition. The lamppost and the spire almost seem to be leaning in protectively over the church roof, coddling or cherishing it, perhaps.

It's easy to take boring or unoriginal pictures of churches, and lampposts, because you're not playing on their inherent attributes and making the most of them. For example, church spires and lampposts are long, thin and tall, so make the actual pic the same way.

Churches are supposed to places where we can feel safe, so use the surrounding elements to wrap themselves around it reassuringly. Symbolism is everything. So look for it everywhere. It doesn't matter if only you see it; that's good enough. The fact that you saw something or were inspired in some way is what counts. After it's for others to try to see what you saw, or to be touched by something in your vision, even if they're not quite sure what it is.

In the final picture I was struck by the exceptional purity of the tones and shapes. The soft grey wall blended perfectly with the harsher geometric forms and I particularly like the placement of elements in relation to each other here.

Again I created quite a tall picture, as the lamppost and doorway encouraged it, but the lower section of wall along with the snippet of kerb in the bottom left, along with their converging angles, almost lead you around the lamppost and off into the picture exiting stage right, or is it left? Well, it pulls you in anyway, I feel, which is the sign of a good photo.

I didn't want the lamppost to interfere with any of the other elements, and I like this kind of passive isolation of all the various bits and bobs: the window, the water outlet or something, the number, the door, the decoration above the door, and of course the lamppost, majestically crowning the whole rather sterile scene. Yes, purity is the word that comes to mind when I look at this shot.

I like it when a shot conjures up a word in my mind, because that means I've succeeded in eliminating a lot of the horrible 'noise' that populates so many amateurish pics. Extraneous, distracting stuff that does nothing. Look out for it like your life depended on it! Things like litter bins and things! Don't publish rubbish!!!

All images & words copyright © Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free 2005

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Une Fresque Parisienne No.3

This shot was taken without looking in the viewfinder nor at the little screen, which was off. But the camera was on so as I earnestly studied the map I subtly tilted the camera up from my waist and 'click'!

What's educational about this shot is probably a couple of things. One is, you NEVER know when a great shot will come your way, so you should be prepared for it. I don't say that smugly, because the ratio of great unexpected shots I've got to times I've cursed myself is probably about a one to a hundred!

The other lesson is, maybe, not to be scared to take the shot. Often I am too scared and there are certainly many times when you shouldn't take a shot, but sometimes there's really no excuse for not trying, in case you get something good, and I believe it worked here. If there's really no way you can line it up and it's basically a shot in the dark, then at least use the widest angle lens you can (quickly and discretely zoom out, for example) and crop later to get rid of extraneous detail. And I'll just reiterate my oft-repeated incitation to photographic greatness: don't forget... if you don't have your camera with you, you won't get the shot. It's as simple as that.

The things I particularly like about this photo are the fact that you've got the name of the district, the number 15 (for the 15th arrondissement) twice, and the human element of course - the guy checking out the map. And whilst the map itself is at a jaunty angle, adding interest and dynamism to the picture, the guy himself doesn't look like he's falling over backwards, just tilting his neck slightly.

When roaming the back streets of the capital you often come upon a strange sort of hinterland of sinister tall buildings, very dark, surrounding spooky courtyards, mysteriously menacing iron structures and snaking leaky pipes. Here is an example, where you can only imagine what the enclosure behind that imposing wall must be like, facades darkened by damp and dust. The trellis is lifeless and only the spindly branches of a nervous young tree break the bleakness of the bare brick towers. Gormenghast revisited, almost.

Talking of towering... towers, tucked away into a little corner between two opposing monsters was a sweet little garden, complete with a couple of flowers, sheltering behind an imposing shiny black grill, nevertheless. I could have reached in and grabbed the flower of course, but that's not really the point.

No, what's great about this shot is... what, in your opinion? I'm fed up with blabbering on, so let me know what you think about the picture on the right, right? I shall remain mum. My lips are sealed. But it's terribly difficult!

Turning to seasonal signals, autumn's definitely here in Paris, and what better way to represent that than with the eternal symbol for the saddest season, fallen leaves.

People aren't necessarily sad in autumn, it's more psychological and sybolic, and many of us are busy with thoughts of the new school year, or the Hallowe'en festival or Guy Falkes night in Britain or Thanksgiving or even Christmas. But nevertheless, it is a time for reflection as the year draws to a close and the winter winds and darker nights draw in. We become aware of another year passing, and the fact that we're not getting any younger.

The wind and rain battered flyer shoved under the windscreen wiper echoes the shrivelled leaves and alludes to chilly days ahead, as does the passer-by already wrapped up in her winter woolies and cozy hat.

You can vaguely see children playing in the park behind the car, a colourful reminder of summer's brighter days, but the other most striking, and essential part of this composition is the leafless branches reflected starkly in the wan grey-blue windscreen.

Reflections are a superb way of including elements in a picture in an original way, which would otherwise be impossible to do.

Here we can zoom in on the main area of interest, the dead, shed foliage on the car bonnet, whilst offering a wistful view of the forlorn parent that spawned them, and finally had to let them go. Even the downward direction of the branches in the glass hints at sadness and loss, as well as indicating the leaves' inevitable gravity-dragged flight path. Like ourselves.

And on that cheerful note... let's all commit collective suicide and have done with it! Actually, autumn is my favourite season, and always has been. I think it's the poignancy of it all, but there's also the feeling of drawing together with family and friends, to protect against the bitter days ahead, with chocolatey wafts from warm mugs and hot water bottles and cuddles in front of a fire, which make it easier to live.

Only parts 4 and 5 to get through, folks, and then it's all over! Phew, what a journey so far, eh? See you shortly.

All images & words copyright © Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free 2005

Une Fresque Parisienne No.2

Hi, and welcome back. You made it! So here we are, in a typical Parisian street, with this disenchanted black youth (I think that's the term) huffily passing your everyday Sumo wrestler who happens, as it happens, to be staring fixedly into one of the most beautiful double-glazed windows you've ever seen through, somehow miraculously remaining upright without any visible support (the Sumo and the window) on the side of an otherwise anonymous white van.

An unremarkable scene? Surely. Not worth noticing? Well, what is worth remarking, in this busy life? And did you remark the sickly sweet black couple smilingly reflected in the window of the van? A reflection, of course, but of what? Laughing at his inconsolableness, maybe. A reflection of another life, way way beyond the rest of us because... it doesn't exist. Hope the sumo wins.

Incidental architecture. Happenstance. Word of the week. Serendipity. I see it all around me, as I stroll and scour these slippery streets. A lamppost watches over an anonymous building like his life depended on it. Never wavering, patience never dimming. Stolid. He's chosen his vocation and he lives it. Like a lamppost. There are a lot of lampposts in this life, I pass them daily, on the streets, in the metro, every office glazed, they're there, like lampposts, leading lives ungaily, in their little worlds they try to shine, shine on.

I have a personal relationship with the lampposts of Paris, of all genres, sad as it is to admit it, and I don't want for one minute to denegrate them. I feel for them, static in their unexpressed longing and devoted calling. But hey! Don't you just want him to vomit all over those so-smug self-satisfied little chimneys snuggling huddling into to their adopted edifices like temerarious ticks? Show their mettle for once. From time to time I do.

There is a purity of line, the hint of a subtle curve raising its eyebrow at you, an understated complicity between the architectural elements of a city.

I believe they are watching us.

Or watching over us.

I'm not able to say too much right now.

They are near.

I can feel it.

But it's there. Forget anthropomorphosizing, there is more to it than that, there must be.

Why did we create all these things if it wasn't for them to have a heart and to contribute a soul to this cold city? We were looking for something, and if the designer imagined their brainchild based on purely functional reasoning, then that's a sad form of conception.

Box of Soldiers. that's the name of this little shop. With expectant mothers hurrying by with pushchairs, mummy's little warriers, brandishing moulded guns, looking the other way, I always wonder how this sort of store, so common in Paris can ever make ends meet. Box of Soldiers. Full of brave little role models, guns raised valiant, Tommy doesn't tumble, solid on his plastic pedestal, the greatest enemy a wayward fly, and cluster bombs a world away from their dusty window pane.

Around the corner from the Box of Soldiers, ironically, lies the Villa de Grenelle (for Dev), a dusty little lane I mentioned in part one. Villa de Grenelle, a shiny sign and a broken promise of a better world. But still, the berries are still deep purple, the foliage alluring, signs alluding to a forgotton time. Dream on.

I took another photo of this plaque, showing what was slightly to the right, and you could see a typically busy Parisian street, with a woman hurrying clutching her shopping, and at the end of the road, my unusual local church (more of that later) and the overhead metro line 6, which is an imposing feature in many of the more southerly left-bank districts.

I'm often struck by nature, be it sneaky leaves encroaching on the patch of a stalwart street sign, upstanding citizen as he is, or little shoots poking out of gutters or just the lonesome plants people plonk on their balconies to brighten up their otherwise uniformly grey grey day.

Tune in again shortly, folks, for part three in this riveting series based on a single walk which lasted around an hour and a half in the the 15th arrondissement of Paris. See you shortly.

All images & words copyright © Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free 2005

Friday, October 21, 2005

Une Fresque Parisienne No.1

Feeling lazy, feeling sad, needing to get out and inspired by Dev's comment, I grabbed my trusty Canon and off I went. You'll find the answer to your question about the name of that cute alley in my last posting shortly, Dev! Look out for it ;-)

A grim, grey afternoon, I didn't care, I knew the 15th would come through for me, as it always does.

First thing I went looking for was some of the sneaky little ruelles that hide out in the 15th arrondissement. Now I come to think of it, I had been considering calling this series of postings something like 'Poking Around the Back Passages of Paris' but I realise now that would have been factitious as they're not passages at all but more like little alleys or lanes. Which also happens to be why I impressively used the French word 'ruelle' above, in italics, like what I've seen really soffisticated writers do.

Funnily enough, my 'big dico', as we expats like to call our weighty word tomes, gives two other meanings for this item. The first is 'the space between the bed and the wall' and the second is '(part of) room used by ladies to hold salons in the 17th century'. Which seems curious to say the least, because if the two senses are linked, which evidently they must be, this suggests that at least some 17th century ladies held their salons 'between the bed and the wall'. This must surely have led to unfortunate incidents where a false step would precipitate a decidedly compromising situation with a tipsy guest landing slap bang on top of the hostess, flailing amongst the sheets, bolstered bossoms flapping all over the place, probably much to the amusement of all. Ahh, those licentious Libertines, eh! We're living in the wrong era, my friends, we're living in the wrong era.

Well, I'm digressing as usual, when I should really be telling you all about the first pic, now way above these words, probably, which is a juicy little street, well, ruelle corner, so typical of this quartier (I'm getting good at this pretentious italics kick...). Well, in this case I see now that it actually is called a passage, the Passage de Sécurité so that rather dampens all my drolleries above, but never mind.

It's nice to see some typically Parisian elements in this shot: the café awning; the beautiful blue and white enamelled street and workshop signs; and the omnipresent millions of scruffy little notes advertising everything from rock groups to full body massages. You even see the odd English teacher touting their distasteful trade, but here it looks more like would-be artists have taken over.

This next shot is the same dodgy passage I believe, cunningly manipulated to make it look much more like a, well, dodgy passage, than it really is. Love the white pigeon on dark grey and the black one on light. One of those happy coincidences that you sometimes see only after you've taken the picture and got back home. And sometimes, just sometimes, something you prayed and begged and waited about 15 minutes with the camera glued to your eye like an idiot to happen.

Another pleasing aspect of this pic is that the left 50% of the shot is entirely monotonous grey, only punctuated by that violent splash of blood red, while all the detail and real action, well ok, the pigeons, is taking place on the right. I found this snazzy thing on the computer, to give away all my secrets, to drag out the foreground, throw the background WAY back, and at the same time reduce the impact of a really ugly, graffiti covered van, which didn't add anything to the shot and just distracted the eye from the aforementioned hot scene taking place on the ground .

My, hasn't he got a long one (still got big dicos on my mind I'm afraid)! An interesting street scene then caught my attention - a flipping great crane stuck right in the middle of the road with the guy driving doing his best not to dump his hook onto the overhead power lines. I'm always intrigued by people who do strange things like this which make you stop and take note.

I suppose in the end his job is no more remarkable than anyone else's. But at the same time, it's not everyone who's got about 40 metres of rock solid extension potential at his fingertips. Other people I've often mused about in a similar vein are Eurostar train drivers and street sweepers, but my pearls of weighty wisdom on those subjects will have to wait for another day.

So there he is, the big yellow truck man, swinging his hook and crane-ing his neck... (I thank you, I thank you) to make sure it doesn't do too much damage to surrounding property or Parisians. Big responsibility. Wonder if he feels 'big'.

And just to finish off this part of the ramble still on an industrial theme, take a look at what the people living in this exclusive little cul-de-sac have the pleasure of looking out on and negotiating each day...

He he! I don't know why I'm laughing, it isn't funny. Well, not for them anyway. Their entire street has been converted into an enormous building site, with piles of sand and rubble and earth and goodness knows what all over the place. The sound of the pneumatic drills digging up the street reverberating around that glorified base drum must be quite something. Bleeding ears cursing bloody builders must abound, I'll be bound.

Know why we say 'I'll be bound' do you? Hmm, hmm? No, neither do I, but I bet I could find out if I wanted to. I can tell you though that cul-de-sac, as we Brits use it to signify a dead-end road, makes the French laugh mightily. Because it literally means 'the arse-end of a bag', which is quite funny.

That's all folks, I'm going to bed pretty soon. Tune in shortly for the next exciting episode of Poking Around the Back Pass... sorry, I mean Une Fresque Photographique. Thanks for listening.

All images & words copyright © Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free 2005

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Flower Power vs Leaves on Fire

Just discovered another cute little alley just round the corner from where I live. These hidden away blasts from the past tend to be called 'cities' or 'villas' and are often narrow and cobble-stoned, lined with sweet little houses from another era it's hard to believe ever existed in the Paris we know today.

They are often easy to miss, their entrances tucked in between a couple of average-looking building with just a touch of unusual greenery hinting at their presence.

I often wonder who lives in these places, whether it's little old ladies hanging on to their relics of the past, or trendy artists with ponytails and paint-stained fingernails. I sometimes wonder if I will ever be able to live in such a haven in the midst of the city I love.

Went looking for the dog-bakery woman again today, and although the shop was open this time, she was doing a TV interview so couldn't meet me. The shop's a wonderful place though, so I hope I'll be able to do an interview soon. Doggy bakery, I ask you! They even seemed to have pooch colognes and the most ridiculous sort of 'turn your dog into a pig' bright pink overcoat thing - I HAVE to take a picture of it, you won't believe it.

Apart from that, some kids were throwing sticks and bits of soggy paper at me yesterday when I was sitting reading in the picturesque square I was in and I lost my patience the second time and suddenly jumped up from my bench and went tearing after them and gave them an absolute scare, I can tell you! But I was mad. Little brats. Must be why I teach them. Nine hours tomorrow. Nine! Still, it's only once a week and of course I am fond of my students - I'm only kidding when I say they sometimes drive me NUTS!!!

And then a teaching book proposal is looking good, and I discussed a potential new web site with a French guy, so all of that's looking good, although 'she' didn't call again. That's life.


Monday, October 17, 2005

I Feel For You Blues

There's a guy out there, a French guy I think, who takes a picture of the Eiffel Tower every day, and posts it up on some sad little blog somewhere just so people can say, oh, hey, there's the Eiffel Tower again. Looking... pretty similar to yesterday, if I'm not mistaken.

Now, what can be the reasoning behind this artistic endeavour, this obscure obsession, I wonder. What does he see in that strange sculpture, that inspires him to whip his camera out, day in, day out, and capture what doesn't change very much, really.

Perhaps it's the thrill of the immediate, the fact that it's today's picture, that he has somehow touched a piece of Paris this day, and is sharing something current with the world.

Could it be that for him this stern iron lady is Paris, no more or no less? And so stern? With legs astride, if not arms akimbo, not so lady-like one might say.

Maybe he's proposed at the very top, maybe he's said 'will you marry me' to an exotic love as fireworks exploded at midnight to welcome the year 2000. Maybe he gazes at it from his window, sparkling every night, mocking his little life.

Maybe he's got nothing better to do with his time! Maybe he's a nutter. Maybe he's a nice guy. This Parisian guy, who certainly isn't me, so don't get any funny ideas! If I find the address again I'll post it here.

In any case, enjoy my latest photo... the view from my window, as it happens.


Autumn's Here

Just been strolling around the 15th arrondissement, not trying to be particularly creative, just enjoying a lovely autumn day. And it's funny what you come across.

Here you can see a lady leading her four donkey/mule things down the middle of the street past the very picturesque little church at the end of rue de Commerce which runs back to La Motte Picquet-Grenelle where I live.

I was actually looking for a place called 'Mon Bon Chien' which is Paris's and probably France's first doggy bakery and I thought it might be worth checking out. It was shut though, so I carried on and stumbled across this little street which could have been in a sleepy village somewhere in the south of France or on an island somewhere!

And finally I came across the beautifully calm square Saint Lambert which is a sleepy delight, with people sunbathing on the grass and just generally chilling out and not feeling like they're in Paris at all. I think I'm heading back there with a drink as soon as I finish this!

There are some awesome coloured trees and walls draped in bright red ivy around at the moment, so I'm going to try and capture a couple of those for us too.

I'm still waiting for Shakespeare & Co to get back to me with confirmed dates for my photography evenings so until then I'll just have to content myself with actually taking pictures instead of blabbering on about them. Back to work tomorrow, but until then, let's enjoy Paris some more.

I Fell For You

In a cruel attempt to show you that creative shots of the Eiffel Tower can go further than you lying on your back taking your boyfriend or girlfriend cutely pretending to hold it between their fingers like it was a little keyring (wow, I'm feeling bitter tonight!), here is the first in a series of pics where I try to do just that. May succeed, may fail. That's all part of the challenge. You decide, and let me know. Here's a poem.

Me An' Eiffel

I'm calling you from Paris
All the world looks up to me
We've come this far
Me an' Eiffel
Can we get much higher
Make it over the bar
With little fuss

I'm crying out from Paris
In this capital of lust
I feel you push
Me an' I fall
Through the safety wire
To crash on crazy paving
Sidewalk weeps

We're signalling from Paris
As the world around us turns
Your pearly gaze gives
Me an eyeful
Starry daze we laze
Past towering ambitions
And sky-churning
Lesser thoughts

I'm pushing out from Paris
Don't know what's got into me
But the capital gains most
Me an' I fool
Just about everyone
With phallic fancy
Gallic gall aghast
My big gun thrust


Sunday, October 16, 2005

Violin Girl

Play for her, guys. Is there really any other reason you're playing? No! Send her a symphony, throw her a tune, but show her a man who is willing or throbing or braying, just look at their faces - nature will out - without any doubt, and a flick of the wrist is enough to confirm what I'm talking about. Accordian wheezing, the violin sobbing, she's drifting right by them, she's passing them by and it's hurting, it's robbing them, slaying them, man's little nature, in pockets of longing, in bulging frustration she's walking right by them she's stalking, a sly one, completely oblivious, maybe, she's hoping for something, she's sifting and shifting, she's flying and sighing, so play for her, play for her guys.

The Man Who Makes The Carrot Birds

Unassuming, gently sitting, bag of vegetables by his side, in the middle of a busy street in Paris, an Asian man makes birds out of carrots. Beautiful birds. Birds which could sing for you, if you had ears to hear them.

Carrot birds, I drop something into his hat, to thank him for this picture, and he stops his art, momentarily, calmly, unassuming, and bows, beautifully, not looking up, inclines gently, his humble way has touched my heart and why I cry as I write this I don't know, but the man with the carrot birds is carving, lost in his crazy part of a street in Paris, chink of a lazy coin, calmly, unassuming, inclines gently, carves his carrot birds, and I'm watching, waiting wildly for a sign.


Friday, October 14, 2005

Down & Out in Paris, France

Just had a great idea for a new theme in my photos section - homelessness. Well, ok, it's not exactly original, I know, but what the hell, it's a topic, it's there, it's very very there, every day, when people come into the metro in various states of undress and distress, pleading their cause.

And I've got a few pics already which could comfortably fit into that category, and my greatest worry is that one day I'll be looking at a photo of a homeless guy and I'll realise it's me... my ghosts continue to haunt me...

Check out the beautiful Parisian architecture, the beautiful, hurrying people, sheltering from the nasty rain, and the unbeautiful, unhurrying tramp, like a designer's bracket, holding the whole thing up, as society threatens to collapse around us.

Sometimes when I'm walking around I'm struck by the perverted beauty of sad, sick situations. And I am aware of how close I am to being the subject of my own bitter-sweet compositions. I never forget that, and it grounds me.

I am that guy. The one on the right. The one propping up the arches. I'm no better than he is. I just drew a longer straw.


Good morning World!

So here's me recording some stuff for a new Disney learn English CD which should be in all good retailers near you very shortly. Look out for it!

It's to teach English to kids, and it's called "Disney's Magic English". So pretty soon millions of little brats around the world will be uttering timeless phrases such as 'Bananas' and 'Put the red fish between the rock and the seaweed' in echoes of my dulcet tones.

I teamed up with Tarzan and Jane (yes, THAT Tarzan & Jane), Mickey and Patch from 101 Dalmations, Ariel, the Little Mermaid, and a not insignificant number of fish to produce what should be the English teaching CD-ROM of the century for little kiddies!

I'm still waiting to see it in the shops but when it does come out it should be enormous, so I'm optimistic about that.


Living Life... Slowly

Listen to me... here's a life, here's a way to spend a lazy, sunny Sunday afternoon. Sitting on a bench, with your lover, enjoying the sunshine and situation.

Take a drag on your water bottle, draw a sheet from your pad - and be creative.


John Peel Day on Radio One

Tonight is John Peel night on Radio One. We're celebrating the life of the greatest DJ that ever lived. John Peel.

He touched me as he touched millions of others with his humanity, his quirkiness and his humour. I'm enjoying the tributes and the music, of course, THE MUSIC!

These pictures have nothing to do with anything other than the fact that they were taken in the same spirit as John chose his music: freely, off-the-cuff, and with feeling. You can't ask for more.


Friday, October 07, 2005

Sax Appeal - Paris Behind Bars Series

Saw my lovely Syrian friend after my lesson tonight - hadn't seen her since before the summer, so that was cool.

I introduced her to the crazy world called Shakespeare & Company because I wanted to put up some of my leaflets to advertise my Lazy Pig Millionaires Club and my latest wild idea - to run photography and writing masterclasses in Paris.

I'm so excited about this idea right now. To spend a whole day with a group of people passionate about Paris and photography or writing, helping them to unleash their creativity and move up a notch or two, or just have a great, inspiring day with some other like-minded enthusiasts. I really hope it takes off.

I've put two parallel ads in the legendary FUSAC on the same topics, so I'm hoping something's gonna come through for me on this one. It could be the beginning of something big, and my life is certainly changing radically in different ways, and I feel it's a Good Thing. Not standing still. Moving on. Doing my best not to look back.

Good news from my publisher contact - they're currently considering my proposals for teacher's resource books to see which one to run with. That's looking good, and the idea of earning some dough without having to hoist my big fat behind from this very chair does appeal to me, I must admit.

I bought a magazine today to read an article all about why businesses should have a blog, and on Monday I'm having lunch with a Lazy Pig Millionaires Club contact that I'm going to discuss the topic more with. I've got no idea what I'm doing here really - just throwing pics and thoughts out there wondering if they'll stick anywhere. It's fun though. Any excuse to rave about Paris and my life here is good enough for me.

Well, I'm getting back to the interview transcription process for a while. More later after a quick glimpse at the top of the Eiffel Tower sparkling from my window - I wanted to take a pic of it to show you what I can see, but I'm too late - it stops after the 1 a.m. show, and I'm way after that, I can tell you. I don't have the best view of it in the world but for me it's priceless! I'll show you it soon.

Sab - Paris Set Me Free

Shakespeare & Company

Had a couple of marvelous interviews in the last few days. Did the boss of legendary Paris bookshop, Shakespeare & Company, the other day. I say boss, but as you'll see from this picture, she's maybe not in the traditional mould...

I can tell you that she's as delightful to talk to as she is to look at, a real gem with an excellent head on her shoulders.

The Shakespeare & Company bookshop was run for about 50 years by her father, Parisian icon George Whitman, and stepping into his shoes wasn't the easiest thing Sylvia's ever done, never mind getting to know her father again, through the strangest of circumstances, after many years of estrangement.

It's a fascinating story, told by Sylvia with lots of love and anecdotes and makes great reading. I'll be putting the interview up on as soon as I've finished editing it and have got Sylvia's go-ahead. Please do read it when it comes out - I think it's quite a significant interview.

Interestingly, she mentioned that she'd like to widen Shakespeare & Company's artistic remit, and mentioned that it would be nice to have photo exhibitions from time to time, for example. They already run a popular and unique literary festival here in Paris, but she is keen to develop the book shop into more of a cultural centre with different artistic disciplines represented.

Guess which Parisian fanatic jumped out of his seat when she said she was interested in photography...

Did you guess? No? Oh well... ME!!!

So I'm currently bombarding her with ideas for running a weekly 'Photography Evening' at the book shop, upstairs in the legendary library, of course, where the poetry readings normally take place.

My idea is to start off the evening by giving a short presentation on an aspect of taking photos in Paris - it could be technique, or 'seeing' or whatever. Then we would have one or two guest photographers showing and talking about their work, followed by an open forum where anyone can show their photos and get a positive critique.

I'd even like to have a competition each week, voted for by the audience, and maybe the prize could be a free place on one of my Parisian Photography Masterclasses - who knows?!

So there are my crazy plans for the day - it's amazing how people can inspire you if you just open your ears and listen. My mouth tends to be open far too much and my ears not enough, but if you let other people talk, not only do you stop an enormous amount of crap from entering the atmosphere, which is in itself admirable and environmentally friendly, you also discover what other people are all about, in all their weakness and glory.

And that's not bad. Thanks Sylvia, thanks Paris, and thank you!


Monday, October 03, 2005

Strangest of Things...

If I cast my mind back 15 years, I was walking this same route, these same streets, as a young would be photographer, on a romantic weekend in Paris.

My girlfriend of the time, a girl called Claire, had treated me to my first visit to the French capital so what did I do but drag myself out of bed at around 5 a.m., heart all-a-flutter, to go and photograph sunrise over the Eiffel Tower. Or under it.

I remember it was chilly, but my excitement made me oblivious to all that. God, she was understanding. Forget warm croissants and kisses in bed. Think stoopid boyfriend abandonning her in the middle of the night to go and take naughty photos of his other lady love... Lady Eiffel!

Well to cut that long story short I waited for about three hours before the sun finally rose in all its blinding glory right between her legs (the Eiffel Tower I'm talking about, remember). Slight miscalculation or what!

And here I am again off in the morning to photograph, not the sunrise this time, but an eclipse. And I end up being about two hours too early again. How do I do it? I think I messed up the time difference between the site where I read about it and Paris time. Oh well, and then it was totally unphotographable - sun too bright, camera too crap, and this would-be pro hadn't even brought a light filter to calm things down a bit - pathetic. So you'll have to make do with what you see here, the only nod towards the event being a cresent-shaped light reflection from one of the lens elements, which is quite cool, nevertheless. Not a brilliant outing, but at least I got something, from the Trocadero gardens, with some rather chilly-looking statues solemnly witnessing the event.

Grabbed a final image on the way home, which for some reason reminded me of a book that I'd read as a kid called 'Fattypoofs and Thinifers', which was funny. People are funny, aren't they? She must be half the size of him. Or is it the other way round? And who cares? Really, who cares? Not me. I don't care about anything much right now. Except my bed. It's been quite a long day. Sorting out someone's money problems. Interviewing the delightful manager of legendary Shakespeare & Co. bookshop. Teaching bilingual kids. Hosting an entrepreneurs meetings. And now this! Will it never end... a good day for once.


Feeling Moody Folks...

In one of those wispy wimsy late night/early morning moods, so here's a poem and one of the most beautiful pictures I've ever taken to carry us through... Sab

If We Never Meet Again

I’ll tell your friends that you were great
If we never meet again
I’ll drink Chinese tea from a plate
If we never meet again

I’ll paint strange exhibitions red
With silent laughter and regret
If our last time was the last time
And we never meet again

If we never meet again
I’ll stand on stupid bridges, starkly
If we never meet again
I’ll glower at darkening skies, darkly

If the last time was the last time
I’ll eat Greek and I’ll dance blind
And sink whiskey and chase the blood clots
Round the remnants of my mind

I’ll part these cheesy seas in spite
I’ll think of poetry too late
And if we never meet again
I’ll have something I can relate

The girl who said “yes, yes; no, no”
With sleepy eyes that went stop-go
And if we never meet again
I’ll sell the Swiss bidders the Seine

And trade our tower to the Japs
In one final fucked-up relapse
If the last time was the last time
And we never meet again

© Sab Will / Mystic Rhythms 2003

Sunday, October 02, 2005

You Can't Beat Paris

Sorry, Maire de Paris, but I wasn't too impressed with your 'nuit blanche' as I said earlier.

In fact, as usual, on the long walk home from Les Halles to the 15th arrondissement, I got four pics which I'm happier with than any of the organised stuff. Although to be honest I was probably far too late to see the best stuff.

Walking down the rue de Rivoli I come to the square between the Louvre and the Palais Royale, and what do I see..? A multifaceted sea of broken ice! What on earth? Well I suppose some hotel or restaurant must have thrown it out at the end of the day, but what a photo opportunity - all it needed was some lights to reflect in it... ah hah - a handy, brightly-lit Parisian arcade beckoned, I lined up the shot, squatting down low to get plenty of the ice in the pic (because that's what makes it interesting) and 'click'! Lovely.

Sorry for the high compression on all these pics, but what can you do? I'll be putting much better ones up on sometime.

And just round the corner is the sublime 'Kiosk des Noctambules' or something like that. It's a dream straight out of Alice in Wonderland, and is always a delight to come across. It's only the entrance to the metro but wow, what an entrance.

Ahh! Just round another corner and here's another ideal new entry for my 'Paris Behind Bars' series on the Paris Set Me Free site.

I cropped this one particularly carefully - see if you can see what I tried to do. I also treated it moderately on the computer to give it a smoothed out, punchy feeling, which is an effect which I love and probably overdo, but I can't do anything about it!

All of these pics were taken handheld, i.e. no tripod, which gives me much more freedom and shows you what you can do with a relatively simple little digital camera if you apply good technique and a sharp eye plus steady hands! Plus a pinch of sharpness afterwards most of the time, I admit. It's a tool. It's there. Use it if necessary, but not too much.

And to finish things off, passing the musee d'Orsay, this rather stunning bateau bleu. There were some major cropping decisions to be made here, as the reflections actually took up much more of the shot than the boat. The problem was, a boat floating around at the top of the pic didn't look particularly cool, so I went for another solution - echo the shape of the main subject with the crop, and make it long and not very high, showing just enough of the beautiful reflections but still grounding the boat where it normally would be - nearer the bottom. Comments?

A bientot, Sab

Nuit Noire

Big disappointment, folks. BIG disappointment. Rushed home after nice evening out with lady in cool arabic cafe with people smoking those weird pipes and then a mexican restaurant. Until then, fine. Quickly printed out the suggested itineries for 'la nuit blanche' which I had cleverly forgotton to do earlier, and headed back into the centre.

Got off at Gare d'Austerlitz, as it seemed that there was an interesting series of light shows starting there. Walked the route. Nothing. Zilch. Que dalle!

Eventually found a rather sad film projection on the side of a building somewhere near St. Paul of what seemed to be a naked Japanese man running rather desperately through some sort of barren industrial landscape. Believe it's called experimental existentialism. You only get the industrial bit in my pic. Sorry girls. Nice butt tho'... take my word for it.

Next I found a big queue to get into what I glimpsed to be a not-very-riveting series of static projections inside the 4th arrondissement's town hall. Gave it a miss.

Then came the 'Hotel de Ville' of Paris. Again, not too impressed. Couple of screens, lots of people, not much going on. Fountains nice though.

After that I passed the Pompidou Centre which seemed dead and snaked my way through the crowds to Les Halles, where apparently there were several things going on.

The crowds were a bit scary though. Found a kinda eerie white vibrating sound blob thang, but there were too many dodgy guys milling around for me to take its pic.

Then discovered a kinda experiential noise/light extravaganza, for want of a better expression, with people swaying either in some sort of trance or desperately trying to stay awake and not fall over in the process.

Passed a kinda spooky blue sky piercing light blob thang, so uninteresting that I had no qualms about taking a photo or two.

Then, to be honest, as I wound my weary way home, things actually got more interesting. I'll carry on later.

Your despondent Parisian correspondent,


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