Saturday, November 26, 2005
Pointy sticks if you like. I don't care. In any case they are enclosing and emprisoning this squeeky little scooter, covered in snow and cowering. Can't be fun being a scooter today...
And then the cars are covered in a thin, icy covering of snow, rapidly melting an congealing, because snow doesn't settle in Paris these days - it's a miracle it even snowed at all! But when it does hit the ground there's a sudden burst of warmth and it all melts away, never staying, which is a pity and a photographer's bane, if he isn't quick of the marks.
There's another Golden Rule, and if you missed the first one, it's: if you think you're a photographer, show us your zoom lens, big boy! But seriously, Golden Rule number one is, if you think you're a photographer, then show us your camera. The point being, wherever you are, if you haven't actually got your camera with you, then you sure as hell ain't gonna be taking too many photos. Carry your camera with you EVERYWHERE. Otherwise drop the 'photographer' label!
And the second Golden Rule, which I've been trying to get around to, is to always be ready for the unexpected.
Expect the Unexpected! It's as simple as that. Don't expect that the perfect shot is going to tap you on the shoulder and say, 'Oh, ahem! err, excuse me, but in three minutes, if you point your camera in that direction over there, you will have a really amazing shot.'.
In the real world it just doesn't happen like that. The shot you are waiting for has normally disappeared before you've even realised it was there. I'm feeling pretty sick about my trip out in the snow today, coz I was in a classic tourist spot, not really doing much at all except being very cold, and a couple of guys came up to me and asked if I could take their pic. They were a lovely couple of hearty Americans, I'm pretty sure gay, and their flight had been landed in Paris due to the snowy weather. We had a great chat, and it was only after that I realised that I should have asked them if I could take their pic. They wouldn't have anything to lose, and I'd have an amazing, cheezy tourist snap the like of which I haven't taken for years.
And I didn't get the shot. That's the sort of thing that kills you when you look back on a missed opportunity and weep.
So take my advice, if you have any aspirations to be a great photographer, and I think I'll be developing this idea here over the weeks: ask for the shot, take the shot, be aware that the shot is actually there in the first place...
There are a lot of things to think about, but with practice and perseverence, the true photographer's eye will prevail!
Hey! Guess what happened when I was sleeping? Paris snowed! Yep, that's right, for the first time in a couple of years, I saw thick white flakes drifting past my window, and it was truly magical!
Didn't last long, though, and I was way too late when I finally got out there with my trusy lens, but I got some stuff to show yous anyway.
This is going to be a little bit like the other stroll I did around my quarter, only that the other one was in totally the other direction, away from the Eiffel Tower, whereas today I went right past it.
My fingers nearly dropped off sometimes, I can tell you!
And this is the first thing I saw when I was on my way out of my building (bienvenu chez moi!). Hope you can put yourself in my shoes, or there's no reason for me typing these words! Another lovely gritty image, isn't it? I live in grit. I love it. Wouldn't want it any any other way...
And here's the sad, if logical conclusion... what a loser... Sab woz 'ere. Well, it's true, he was! At least the words aren't lying, for once.
It's not me in the picture, by the way. I don't look anywhere near that good... I'm still coming to terms with the fact that Paris has just dumped its load on me, snowed on me, when I'm so snowed under already. Well, in French we say 'Il faut faire avec'. Which I reckon roughly translates into English as the more dynamic 'Deal with it!' or an even better expression which I can't remember - if anyone can help me out here I'd be grateful.
Sab woz 'ere,
I wanted someone to stroll past, but I missed her, I was just a couple of seconds too late. As Jack White says just before he bleeds his live version of 'Jolene': "Different place altogether? I'm in the right place at the wrong time? That's how I feel every day..!" And I know exactly how he feels.
This picture can in fact be defined by an absence. An absence of someone who would make it complete. The very fact that there is no sign of human life in this shot makes it all the more human, but all the more tragic.
We watch leaves falling every day, but how often do we associate them with our own destiny..? - the fact that we are doomed to fail. And fall. Everything that we live for can be resumed in this picture - the absense of meaning, the tumbling flakes of life, the drain cover, sucking in sweet soggy cinders, the harsh city street, unforgiving, gleaming and gleaning its ounces of reflected, invected chlorophylled moments of longing, I'm waiting for you, with my lens, and me, and above all, me...
Friday, November 25, 2005
Beautiful oases of tranquility, to repeat a well-deserved cliche, there is always a reason to check out from the city for a while and let your thoughts wander.
I am always wondering how to take original shots of classic monuments like the Eiffel Tower, or in this case the Paris parks which have been photographed so often before. Just to raise your camera to your eye is to instantly become a living characature of a million million tourists. What can you do to make your shots different from all those others?
Well, it's funny, but the answer is remarkably simple... what do you think it could be?
Imagine sneaking up on your own shadow and spookily tapping it on the shoulder, now wouldn't that be a thing?! Do you think it would jump out of its... whatever it is that shadows jump out of?
That's what seems to be happening here in this gritty, grungy, grimy image I shot about an hour ago, although I've actually got a shadow creaping up on another shadow here, and both of them belong to me! Curiouser and curiouser...
What a lot of really great words begin with 'gr'. I've just spent a very happy five minutes perusing that very section of my faithful Concise Oxford Dictionary. So your homework (don't groan!) is to write a sentence with as many words beginning with 'gr' in it as possible.
Do you see now what fun us English teachers have..?
Watch your shadow. It is not of this world...
Thursday, November 24, 2005
This row of shops, just before you get to all the tourist stuff at the Palais Royale, is sort of attached to the Louvre, in that it's full of antiques and various items of more or less dubious merit. Old rattlebones here was by far the most interesting item on display in any of them.
I've got another wonderful picture on the skeleton theme somewhere on the Paris Set Me Free site where a ribby drain cover has been turned into a skeleton's ribcage in a moment of rare humour. Ahh! After a great dredge around I've finally found it here, but you'll have to scroll down. You can't miss it when you get there though, I assure you! And you even get a rather inebriated poem into the bargain! There are days like that...
Just a bit of background on my 'Paris Behind Bars' series, which is coming soon on my site and which I'm very excited about.
I've realised slowly over the years, that you need to work to themes, both to discipline yourself, and also to give greater coherence to your work. It's a bit like the old adage that if you don't know where you're going, how the hell are you ever going to get there?!
So I've developed a few themes which I try to shoot to when I'm out. The simple fact of having themes helps you to focus and also reveals more opportunities for great shots than if you are just wandering around aimlessly.
Take the 'Paris Behind Bars' theme, for example. Now I automatically look in every shop window at night when the shutters have been lowered to see if there's anything interesting peeking out from behind them. And it's amazing how ofter there is.
It puts a whole new perspective on ordinary shop window displays when you see the normally glamourous, over-the-top, happier-than-happy and freer-than-free models, for example, suddenly imprisoned behind cold aluminium grills. But occasionally you can play with that. The full pouting hexagonal lips of a sexy siren can be echoed in the form of the interlinked metal tubes encapsulating her. A proud stalking tiger can be reduced to a pathetic, impotent zoological exhibit. And tribal effigies, supposedly evoking far off exotic places, are shown, cruelly, for the shams they really are, so far from their homelands and the calloused hands that carved them.
Other themes I work to, which you can see on Paris Set Me Free soon, in the pictures section, include 'Paris Under Bars' (me getting sloshed and waving my camera around a bit at the same time... don't ask), 'Paris Rainbows' (where I look for any manifestation of rainbow colours wherever I find them), and a few others which are brewing. What about 'Paris Lampposts', 'Down & Out in Paris', and 'Pigeon's Eye Paris'. Could be fun! Let me know what you think, viewers!
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Well, almost. It's at La Bastille, where a strange subterannean canal meets the magestic (well, it's ok...) Seine, and they have this weird sorta port-thingy, with boats and weeping autumn trees and the whole caboodle.
You should check it out next time you're here in October / November.
And as a mildly amusing aside, you do realise that la Place de la Bastille is where, on the 14th July, 1789, a somewhat pissed off bunch of locals gathered to start what is now known as "the French Revolution", don't you?
Oh well, now you do. More about that somewhere else on the Paris Set Me Free site but, suffice it to say, the Marquis de Launay, governer of the imposing fortress, ended up with his head on a pike and there's no more fortress no more, no more... there's no more fortress no more!! (Could be a song, couldn't it?)
Another late night ramble through the dripping Paris backwaters. Every now and then you stumble across little families of fixtures; groups of supposedly sleeping objects you would swear were watching you carefully.
As with drain covers rubbing shoulders with pavement curbs and litter bins. I feel you.
As with peeling pipes vying for wall space with drab electricity junction boxes and smart enamel street plaques. I feel you.
As here, where a group of street signs and eerie viridian lamps are having a nocturnal chat, policed by the smart white-capped poles and watched over silently by slightly swaying trees... I feel you...
What do they make of this shadowy passerby, made up of so many contrasting crutches, all swinging and clutching, beer cans and cameras..?
What do they make of this drifting chimera, made up of twitches and traits, dragging five black bags of memories, eyes roaming up down and here and there, contantly shifting, everywhere feet shuffling through the autumn leaves sogging, shoes splashing in puddles of yesterday's folly..?
Ask the trees.
Friday, November 18, 2005
Petits morceaux de vie
Teintées par le sang d'automne
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
I was trawling through Paris, just after yet another breakup, and looking for dark dark things, and I found them, as witnessed here, as dark as I could possibly make them. Drains and darklings, sinister grills, spooky fan vents, greasy stills. Feel the grimy grungy underworld, of my unrepenting soul. Of my unrelenting whole. Of my badly missed home goal, I'm just venting... and talking of vents, Paris is great for that. I was very impressed by her! She's done me proud.
Ex-wife asked me to delete her from all my sites yesterday. Have done. Will be done. Somewhat cutting, somewhat sad. But necessary. Surely.
Monday, November 14, 2005
How I love those hands, so soft and tender, how I love that star she makes with her legs and her feet and her arms and her hands.
How I love her calves, that most fabulously fleshy part of the body that feels so wonderful, so sweet and so so right in my hands as I caress her with my eyes, with my lens, how I love this image, how I love her.
In fact this year has almost been one big walking extravaganza for me. I've done a lot of walking this year. So these images are symbolic for me. I'm the person striding ahead of me. I'm the shadow slipping past barred windows. I'm he who walks where the bicycles go. I'm the one who flits by strange exhibitions of thrown paint, like the paint I've thrown many times myself at empty canvases.
I'm feeling more and more like the shadow man I described in this old poem from another time.
I believe walking, and photography, and Paris, is somewhat responsible for what I am now. Paris never fails to astonish me.
However bad I'm feeling, there is always something to take my breath away when I least expect it. Be it a sudden shimmering of light in a metal grill, a wavery reflection in a puddle, a game of shapes and shadows on a wall, a funny motif under my feet.
Paris will nurse and nourish me. If she can't do it, I don't think anything can.
And on the subject of photography... did you know that I'm holding my first Photography Evening at Shakespeare & Company on Wednesday? Well I am, so there! So what am I going to do? That's the question. I've named the first evening 'The Art of Seeing', which sounds somewhat pretentious, but I really believe that you can't take photos without opening your eyes. Sounds strange, but what I'm really talking about is the eyes of your soul. You need the ability to see things - to imagine pictures which don't even exist yet. You have to 'see' in your mind's eye what you want to exist and then you have to work out how to make it a reality.
Often people don't want to help you. I remember once a strange gallery with a giraffe stretching out its neck, and all I wanted was someone to go past and make it look like the giraffe was trying to take a nibble out of the passerby, and you won't believe how difficult it was to just get someone to just actually walk past the window! They'd stop or hesitate or walk behind me or anything, without realising that THEY were supposed to be the star of the photo! I couldn't tell them, of course!
So there it is. Capturing the moment. Imagining the unimaginable. Setting up shots in your head and hoping that they will come true. I guess we're all setting up stuff in our heads and hoping it will come true. My latest one didn't. So I keep on shooting.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Here are a few pics from my London trim. I mean trip. As you can see we went to see a fireworks display, but in fact it was in the local park and as my daughter's mother's brother doesn't like paying for things, allegedly, we snuck down the lane by the river next to the park to try and see the show for free, hence the trees.
He barely acknowledged me, although he shook my hand, grudgingly, when I offered it, although a lot of reasons said I shouldn't have, and the funny thing is our kids, his son and my daughter, cousins, laughing and giggling, were oblivious to it all. The follies of adults.
The last thing I remember of that family is them kidnapping my angel through crazy Greek pride, with her brothers screaming and swearing down the phone in front of her, my Mist, what memory must she have of that, hearing her father bad-mouthed, who just wanted to see her, venting their ire against another crazy Greek passionate soul, and the madness went on. And on. And a dear friend had to suffer that, and she wasn't sure what was going on but she helped nevertheless.
Reminds me of a playground drama which has been taking place recently. Apparently my daughter hit another girl, or it was possibly the other way round, but anyway, it doesn't matter, what's really funny is that once the kids have made up, the parents are still at it! Deeper than pride, or what? Drop it, girls!
Trying to pop in a couple of old poems that I haven't read for a long time, but which tell me quite a lot about myself, in retrospect. That's the frightening thing. Retrospect.
Look at the joy on her face - look at that innocence, that untainted moment, that we can still feel as adults, sometimes, either through our children, or genuinely, for ourselves, just for a moment, sometimes.
And here's my trip back into the east, echoing others, like this poem, going going gone, like my latest love, inspiring poems and poems, but what do they mean in the end?
I bought some books in London. Positive books, and I carry them with me religiously. Like they're going to change my life. I fill in the latest wonder-solution form to all the world's unhappinesses. This time it's going to work. I tell myself. But in the end.
All that really matters is a little girl's laughter, when all's said and done. So I'm slowly sharing a couple of poems with you on this lazy Sunday, somewhat slightly sunny, if I look across the way to my Chimneys of Lust, which seem to be basking, wanly, in some sort of illumination, not too drab. Maybe the sun his risen in the Shires one more time. Who knows?
Clouds are fleeting, watch them drift away... Sx
Saturday, November 12, 2005
This is a view I will probably never see again, not just because skies do not repeat, but because circumstances don't either. It was a sweet sunrise, the beginning of something new, I thought, we thought, but it wasn't to be. This is life. But the world keeps turning. This is not a view I will have for the rest of my life, from the bedroom of a sweet little girl, only three years old, could have been a Misty Sister, that's the way it goes.
Windows are opening onto chimneys, and I've got the photo to prove it, which is all that counts in the end when love breaks down. I'm a bit of a chimney fan, although I'm not quite sure what my strange fascination with them is. Across the way I have a wonderful array of the things, which I look out on each day, so maybe that has something to do with it. Not that they spout out anything noxious - they're mostly anodyne these days. But the potential is there. Passive potential.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Stride, she strides she, me a-running after she, lost like the guy passing by the tree, he a-lost he.
This is Paris for me, fleeting moments, fleecing bits of cloth, unclothing, thoughts revealing, waving, washing lines unrelentish concealing nothing, dirty washing, love to see it, darling, show me more than you're feeling...
Then the fantasy finishes, she's a-gone a long gone, perfect lonesome legs a swan song, gutteral guy a grim gnome, spiteful tree a trite base home.
The way architectural elements interact with each other speaks to me with its own language, without apology, without artifice, paradoxically, but with real emotion and meaning.
The skinny drainpipe, the pompous posturing palisades, the gorgeous blue, the tottering tiling, the humbling image shot through and through by lines of unrelenting grey, is this really representative of where I live, and anyway, hey!
Number '6', rue d'Ouessant, 75015, Paris! That's me, but...
I think it's more significant than I'm giving it credit for, skinny drainpipe, GAZ number 6, like a dream, sliding upwards, pointing pure pretending, perky piping.
Check this out, an image slammingly horizontal, but with elements breaking all that, uneven, giving all the dynamic necessary...
14, rue d'Ouessant
The thing that pleases me with this shot, is not that it is groundbreaking: it is not. It's that it is part of everyone's lives - it speaks me of the quartier, of the everyday lives of all the residents and passers-by. But it's not every one who would see this shot. It's not everyone who would spot the fact that the skinny drainpipe dares to sneak down, or is it up, between the street name and the street number, and the GAZ sign, and the concrete nonsense, penetrating and infiltrating it, somehow.
Rue d'Ouessant, what great pleasure and terrible sadness it gives me to write those words... rue d'Ouessant...
With how many girlfriends have I tried to share my passion and my particuliarities? The market on Sundays...
This is the street where unknown musicians stroll, where unknown drainpipes drip and droll with sleazy signals, like this juicy, "Massage pour Homme et Femme" (Massage for Men and Women), but it's ok, coz it's by a femme of Asian origin, speaking a little French, with professional massage references, offering us a traditional quality home service, not to mention the fact that she reduces pain, eliminates tension and tiredness, and stress and so on, believe me, (it's in the ad...)
I'm severely tempted, if it wasn't for the fact that.....
there's this slimy scummy piece of paper dripping from my local lamppost touting dodgy dazy services which, to be honest, I wouldn't mind, so I'm going to call up and see what happens, see if I can inject a bit of Asiatique passing into my life... amongst the peeling... and the not so appealing, but who knows... you never knows, you know...There are moments when you no that you have an opportunity. And very often you have forgotten to take your camera with you on these occasions. Necessary precautions. Taken.
This was my case.
Opposite my building were two guys sharing and alternately playing a guitar, and their music was celestial, to exaggerate slightly, a sort of manic mixture of latino lunacy merged in with gypsy madness... well, it wasn't bad, in any case...
And I was at the end of my photographic sojourn, and I thought, this is it, and should I do something here, and will this be the best chance I have to do something meaningful today...?
So I decided, and the reason this photo is blurred is not because the light was bad, and I was shooting without flash, which I abhor.
The reason is that I was shaking with emotion because I knew that I was capturing something unique and I didn't know how to control myself.
This photo speaks for itself, and the very process of describing a photo is slightly absurd, as you just can't do it. So I should probably just shut up now. So I did.
And in my delerium I grabbed a shot from my balcony, way up high, looking down on the guys, strangely, that tends to change perspectives, especially since I've just made contact with someone who picked up on my wayward aerial ethereal tendrils flitting all the way across the way.
So I asked them if I could take a photo, and one of them said 'Yes' and I realised that I didn't have any more batteries in my camera, so I ran like a crazy guy, like a nutter, like an idiot, running, up to my apartment, to capture that moment, so I did, and I don't give a damn that it's blurred, in fact, it HAS TO be blurred, coz otherwise it wouldn't be the same and it wouldn't be real.
And that's real.
Here's loving you and leaving you with a crazy grabbed shot from my sixth floor flat - all part of that very same delerium.
Grab the opportunity when you can. If it's there, do it.
The only person who will regret not having taken the shot, is you... You will come to know that this is true... sooooo..... DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!!
Here we have the people passing sidewalk nutters.
Drown-and-outs. The Undesirables.
Except that they actually play some damn good music. That's the problem.
Watching where people's eyes go when they pass our beer-cans tells us tells us millions, focuses wavery attention on the dreams of shrivelled architects.
And withered would-be poets, and writers, and wish-weary wanderers, and in fact, there are so many wimpy warriors. And skinny drainpipes.
Shit, I think that's it.