Sunday, 26 August 2012

Even Ghosts Die Too

Sam at the wonderful Ghostsigns blog drew my attention to a photo taken in 1983 by Scott Phillips of an incredibly well-preserved Dubonnet wall ad. The question for Sam - and for me - was whether the ad still existed today. The photos below show the results of my investigation.


Scott Phillips' photo at the top, posted on his blog last week, already seems to come from another age. Although the basic street layout is almost identical, the colours and shapes of the vehicles show the picture's vintage. And then there is the very vivid painted ad. Such things are just not seen in Paris anymore, as my picture beneath shows, so what happened to the ad in the 30 years since the original photo was taken?

My guess would be that rather than it being simply a case of age and weathering, the ad would have been a victim of changes in advertising rules for alcoholic drinks. Although the painting was something of a rarity, the fact that it could be so clearly read - and was promoting a product that still exists - meant that the authorities had to do something about it. 


By zooming in closer to the photo and playing around digitally with the image it is possible to see that the Dubonnet name is still legible at the bottom. Above that though, it seems that efforts to scrub away the brand name have revealed traces of even older ads beneath. Whispers of words and splashes of colours are visible, but their messages stay frustratingly out of reach.

There is one other mystery. Although it seems that work will soon begin on a large-scale development that may make these walls disappear completely, this does not explain why the rather attractive windows that were visible between the two ads in 1983 have since been walled over (the other windows further back are still open to the air).

Perhaps we may as well ask why they don't make yellow cars anymore.

Note: the wall is situated alongside the Vaneau Metro station (visible on the right-hand side of the photos) in the 6th arrondissement.

9 comments:

Sam Roberts said...

Absolutely fascinating investigation Adam, thank you so much for bringing the latest chapter to the story of this sign together. Between you, me, Scott and Sebastien we have unravelled and intriguing tale. One that no doubt has more to uncover too...

Red_Cardinal said...

One would have hoped ads like these would have been listed in some fashion. Sad :(

Adam said...

Sam: Uncovering is certainly the right word!

Red_Cardinal: This is a very good point. I'm sure that these creations would once have been as ubiquitous as current ad campaigns, but you would indeed hope that later rarity could have helped preserve them. Perhaps they were photographed and listed somewhere, but I'm sure they were never considered as art and therefore not worthy of protection.

Cara Black said...

Great post Adam. I remember seeing a Dubonnet sign on a building on Ave de Saint Ouen near Sq des Epinettes. Think it was between Guy Moquet and Porte de Saint Ouen. Not sure if it's still there - cheers, Cara

Owen said...

Surprising they didn't just paint it over, rather than scrubbing down to preceding layers of paints.

Ah, if only we could see all that went before... over the centuries...

Clio said...

Waouh ! Wonderful !

Kate said...

Hi Adam,
I loved your blog when I first found it, after it had been mentioned in one of the British newspapers. I have lived in Paris for 40 years and have always been fascinated by its forgotten and overlooked nooks and cranies. I haven't read any of your posts for a good long while - just dropped in by chance, and here's another lovely one. I live quite close to the site on your photo and also miss the passing of these old painted adverts. When I first arrived in Paris there were can- can dancers drawn like in one of those flip image books in the metro tunnels near Bastille, advertising Dubonnet, as far as I recall. Ah autre temps, autre moeurs!

Peter Olson said...

Looking at photos from the beginning of the 20th century, you find that almost all blind walls were covered with publicity, much more than today! Maybe some good surprises to be found if you take away the (white) unique paint which now cover many of them?

Timo Elliott said...

Great blog - one comment - the Dubonnet image was still very clearly visible when I first moved to Paris in the early 1990s

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