Saturday, September 12, 2009

Serge in Tomb

Serge Gainsbourg was a mighty figure, perhaps the biggest musical influence to come out of France, PERIOD. He revolutionized french music by taking it from the streets and small villages, putting it in a studio and sexing it up. He was first of his time, then he changed his time. He single handedly created what the world knows as the sexy french chantuese, with her breathy vocals and direct siren call. He put sex on vinyl, but it wasn't just sex, it was liberation. His work with Bardot, Birkin, Clark and Gall are legendary. With his incredible sense of language, mood and knowledge of instruments, Serge Gainsbourg did not simply ape what he heard from America and elsewhere, he sought to create new sounds, new beats and that thing which can not be described. He also created a new image of the french man, one who wore incredible clothes, smoked, drank, loved openly and with no apologies. He symbolized a new age in France which went out into the rest of the world. His romances were famous. His behavior infamous. He lived in a POP world. He was the 'true' King of Pop in my opinion.
I had heard about his house but never knew where it was. It turns out that I have been passing by it for years, never knowing. It is in plain site in the 7th Arrondisement on the Rue de Verneuil. The small, walled house is covered with grafitti. When I heard about the grafitti I was a little horrified, but I can understand now why his daughter, the actress and singer Charlotte Gainsbourg refuses to have it painted over. People leave mementos. They were touched by his music and for them Serge Gainsbourg will never die. Looking at the house, I was reminded of ancient Egyptian tombs. There is a guarded entrance, totally black. The walls are covered in hieroglyphs, each helping the occupant of the tomb carry on into the afterlife. I have read and seen photos of the inside of Serge Gainsbourg's home and it has been left exactly as he left it, again like Egyptian tombs where everything is provided for the here after, for life to carry on as it had before.
I first came to Paris around the 10 year aniversary of his death in 91. I will always remember a large poster of him in black and white on the side of a magazine kiosk. It was in remembrance. It was an image, strong, bold and of his later years, a little broken. I looked at the image for a while and since it was close to my hotel, I passed by it everyday. In many ways Gainsbourg symbolized France for me. Today I was in a very new store called Merci. It is a concept store in which many things are housed under one roof, like many stores are now done in the US. On a chair, rested a pair of white Repetto mens shoes, something which has been a symbol of Serge Gainsbourg's since he was first seen wearing them. Seeing them was not like seeing a simple pair of white leather shoes, it was seeing Gainsbourg.
Je t' non plus.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Musée Jeu de Paume: Martin Parr

Moody in Paris

Paris can be moody, or perhaps it is just the way I photograph it. This past Summer seemed especially quiet in the city and I went out often to take photos, usually being the only person on a street. Maybe it is in part due to the financial situation, but tourists seemed to stay away this year, all but other Europeans, most noticably Italians and Germans. Parisians fled the city as if to escape an impending doom. Summer is probably not the best time to come to Paris as a tourist. So much is closed and hours for attractions are changed, sometimes shortened, but for natives, it can be quite nice. Parks stay open later. People stay out late, prolonging going back to cramped and heated apartments. Picnics spring up in unexpected places, like sidewalks and the banks of the Seine, or the metro. Still, the heat! The quiet streets in the mornings. The sun casts long shadows and Paris can take on a feel of a German Expressionist film. There could be something around the next corner. Nothing menacing, but just the promise of a surprise. I love these moments.