Sunday 3 January 2010

Vous Êtes Ici

I recently received an e-mail from a visitor in New Hampshire asking if I did requests. It is not really something I have thought about before, but I was very happy to oblige. It was a simple enough request, written with a touch of melancholy, and I thought I might be able to bring a little seasonal cheer.

"I have always wanted to find a particular image that I never had a chance to take a photo of. It is an image on the side of a building, facing west, which is visible from the bus line 26 on Rue La Fayette. I often passed that mural thinking each time, "next time I will get off the bus and take a photo of it". But I never did"

As I approached the mural, camera in hand, a thought came to me. I was becoming somebody else's eyes. This person had passed by the mural many times but how closely had he ever observed it? It was an arresting image on a banal bus journey, a colourful mural glimpsed through windows mapped with scratches and condensation. It had been powerful enough to make a lasting impression, but would the photographic reality match the picture in his mind's eye?

As I walked around the building, observing it from every possible angle, another fact became evident. From each of the angles, the picture was different. From underneath, the head of the man disappeared, and it was a Space Invader in the foreground that grabbed the attention. On the left hand side, the male figure was very clear. On the right-hand side, bathed in a streak of sunshine, it was three words that were brought into focus; Vous êtes ici.

Alongside the three words was a train sitting in a station. My visitor had mentioned a man taking off his hat, surrounded by trains and other machines of transportation, but the image I saw before me was mostly a representation of the city of Paris. Why was it the train that remained etched in his mind? The answer could be found 20 metres further along. After flashing past this mural, he would have crossed the La Fayette bridge that spans the Gare de l'Est. Two neighbouring features of his bus journey had perhaps fused in his memory.

One person who would appreciate this is the artist who sketched the mural. François Boisrond is mostly associated with the Figuration libre group of artists who were briefly famous in the 1980s, but today he is interested in everyday life and how this affects the perceptions we have of our surroundings. His paintings of Paris place him in the position of an observer, showing how we are often overwhelmed by the noise of the city. He has painted a series of pictures where typically Parisian scenes can only just be made out behind large advertising boards, and interestingly in the context of this post, views of the city through a car windscreen. This time, the observer himself created something that has changed a perception of the city.

I took the photos and have posted them here, but will my visitor recognise the images I captured? I am here in his place, with time to clear out the clutter of everyday life and choose the best angles, but by doing this have I also burned away a cherished vision of a happy time in his life?


Adam said...

Thanks for your messages during the series of posts I did over the holidays - a very happy new year to all visitors!

Oh, and if anyone else has any similar requests, any parts of the city they remember and have often wondered about, I will gladly research them for you and feature them here!

PeterParis said...

I have got similar requests and am happy to fulfil them! (This is how I got published in one German and one Polish book about Parisian architecture - free of charge!)

Cergie said...

Mon père nous parlait toujours d'une source dont le souvenir avait abreuvé et raffraichi ses plus dures soifs. C'était une source dans une forêt près d'une chapelle (la chapelle Ste Sabine)et il y avait aussi une pierre dressée, la pierre Kerlinkin. Il y allait avec ses frère et soeurs et sa mère lorsqu'il était enfant sans doute pour une procession annuelle. Et jamais il n'avait bu une eau aussi fraîche et bonne.

Nous avons emmené notre père pas très longtemps avant sa mort. Il y avait la pierre, la chapelle mais il n'y avait plus la source. Mon père a dit qu'il ne fallait jamais essayer de revenir sur les lieux du passé....

Une bonne année 21010 à toi Adam ; n'ayons pas peur de nous retourner sur le passé, tant que nous savons qu'une ville doit vivre et évoluer comme un être humain évolue sinon il est mort...

Cergie said...

2010 of course ! Vivons tioutes ces années les unes après les autres sans bruler les étapes !

The Art Of Hacking said...

J'aime paris <3
i hope i get a chance to visit paris one day

Karin B (Looking for Ballast) said...

What a touching post! Not only was it a generous thing to do for the visitor, but it is a delightful piece of artwork. I liked knowing more about the artist who created it. Thanks for doing this!

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