A Photograph of Gloom

by Ric Erickson Number 1.13 - Metropole Paris, Monday, 20. May 1996:- On the calendar, last Tuesday used to be St. Boniface Day, the day popular wisdom says marks the last day of winter. Since I long ago tentatively announced the arrival of spring, to find out now that winter-is-over officially on 14. May, (now St. Maithias Day) I feel that I may have mislead readers. However, in looking outside today - I'm afraid it may still be - no, I won't say it! - instead I will say, it may still be a blustery... March.

Generally, the temperatures are six to eight degrees below normal. As you will see if you are walking around Paris, the natives have unpacked their winter wear. Before you stuff your suitcase to match this unwelcome news, read our feature 'Pull, Mac and Brolly to Go' in this issue.

The weather service reminds us of the five degrees in Paris, recorded in 1935; while regional farmers will not rule out overnight freezes up until 10. May. In general, they do not 'trust' May at all, because they can not be certain of doing what needs to be done.

Last night's late TV weather news forecast pure garbage for the foreseeable future. Hah. 'Foreseeable!

Every rare once in a while the sun shyly peeks through the turbulent skies and when it does, you get steamy quickly, and I suppose if the sun lasts for half a day the doctors will complain of an epidemic.

It seems like a long time ago, but it could have been only about two weeks back when the TV news was bombarding us nightly with dire forecasts about the ongoing drought in northern France. It must be voodoo or the Marabus, because 10 nightly reports of drought have completely turned the situation around - and farmers that were looking at tiny puddles in the bottoms of deep creek beds and reluctantly turning on their sprinklers, are now wondering what's got into St. Boniface. To me it is obvious - the blessed fellow has got an 'attitude' since he was replaced on the calendar by St.Maithias.

The newspaper claims it's the Poste's fault for fiddling with the calendar; but I got mine from the Sapeurs-Pompiers, so it might have been them.

Not To Be Taken Seriously

My misadventure, as reported in this issue's featurette 'The House of Photos' was caused by the weather. I have this short list of obscure parks I want to go to and write about and week after week they are in the editorial plan, and week after week they get crossed off as yet another dreary day glooms.

If I really wanted to see the exposition at the Maison Europeenne de Photographie, as a good journalist I would have my personal secretary call them up a couple of months in advance and set up a formal meeting, and go there on the appointed day and do a proper story. But one aspect of Metropole that I like to stick to, is to go to these places just as any visitor would - I look at the rain outside, look in my guidebook, and decide today is the day to see the modern photos inside a warm and dry building.

So I turn up without warning - but, here is the business again - I pretty well have to tell them who I am and what I'm there for. This is called 'being a professional' and the benefit is supposed to be long-term: they let me do my feature, without an appointment, as a favor; and I will keep them in mind when I have a few favors of my own to pass out. If this works well, it is called, 'a professional relationship.'

So far, in about 15 months of steady reporting, asking questions, taking photos, showing up without appointments, this approach had failed twice - both with photographic goals or subjects.

With CD-ROMs, the Internet and digital in general, photographers - or their commission agents - have gotten very paranoid. They think the digital people are going to steal their stuff, publish it and make a lot of money. I don't know where they get this idea when any gum-chewing kid on roller skates can buy a 49 franc toss-away camera and go into competition with them.

I take a fair number of photos every week and I can tell you it is a pretty accidental business. There's always a 'right' instant to shoot, but you are seldom ready, or you've shot too soon and can't reload fast enough, or it was the last shot in the box.

When digital video becomes common, a lot of these essential problems will fade away because you will be able to shoot - during - the 'right' instant. Afterwards, all you'll have to be able to do, is identify the particular 'instant' that is so 'right.' You will have 25 images a second to choose from. This will be easier than only getting one shot at it.

With cheap computers, the capital obstacle to publishing was drastically lowered; allowing many more publishers to exist and thrive. With the arrival of digital video, I think the time and effort obstacle of capturing the 'right instant' is going to be lowered, empowering many more people to take better pictures than ever before. This will have the effect of making the aesthetic threshold that separates 'art' from trivia, much higher and true 'art' in the form of photography will have to have an exceedingly high level to be recognized at all.

Whether this will affect the 'art' photo business, its critics, middlemen, galleries, and museums, remains to be seen.

Inside stuff:

Pisanello, le Peintre aux Sept Vertus
Until 5. August, 10:00 to 22:00, closed Tuesdays. In the Louvre, Hall Napoleon, entry Pyramid. Paris 1.

Facades Parisiennes
Panoramic views of the boulevards and streets of Paris, photographs by Georges Aemi.
Until 18. August, 10:00 to 17:40, closed Mondays. Musée Carnavalet, 23, rue de Sévigné, Paris 3.

Braderie de Paris - The Discount Show
Kitchen sinks, half price, etc.
From 24. May to 2. June; 11:00 to 20:00 daily, and to 22:00 on Tuesday and Fridays.
Parc des Exposition de Paris, Porte de Versailles.

The usual couple of URLs:

French Poems

The French TV station M6:

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