Extravagant behaviour
in front of the Eiffel Tower

[ Paris, Trocadero | 3rd October 2006 ]


A great many tourists visiting Paris approach the Eiffel Tower for the first time from the Place du Trocadero, a large esplanade where the monument's revelation may take place in a suitably dramatical manner...

Coming before the Eiffel Tower is the fruit of a long wait, the trip dreamed of over a lengthy period, in due time prepared and travelled, a long impatience carefully tramelled. Finally getting there is a bit like playing out a little pageant, the visitors invest their behaviour with personally symbolic or comical gestures. They stretch out their body geometry in answer to that of the tower. And for those who arrive with a loved partner, the act of being there becomes a token of love's intensity. The ritually enacted photographs that visitors take of themselves serve to concretise that moment whose fleetingness will soon be looked back upon with longing.

This photographic work relates to the "genus loci" and "melancholics anonymous" leitmotifs, the way the city and its landmarks host those who pass through briefly.

As I was leaving, I was pounced upon by three plain-clothes policemen. They were dressed in "ruffian" style. They wished to know why I had been taking photographs of people, asking me if I intended publishing them on internet. I explained them the meaning of my work. They then expressed their innermost conviction that I must be a sexual criminal. They had seen me photograph the lady in the red dress. They confiscated my camera and holding me at a distance they paged through my images. They carped at the slowness of the camera (an old model) and for a reason unbeknown to me considered the capacity of my memory cards as being of the utmost significance. "Do you take pictures of children?", "Do you put your photographs online?", they interrogated me repeatedly. Finally they came upon a picture with children, a family shot with everyone neatly lined up before the front door of a house. Their whoop of triumph "children!" was cut short by the ordinary nature of the scene. They telephoned the police station to check whether I was in their files, I imagine that someone there paid a quick visit to "Joetopia" to uncover illegal material. Finally, they gave my camera back, saying: "Mister, you are a pervert. I would like to arrest you, but unfortunately the law is on your side".