Saturday, 3 December 2011

Sab's Top Ten Daring Paris Draincovers: No.3 ~ "Mr. Funny Face"

POSTED IN:  ~ PlacesTop 10 ~ Pavements Drains

Sab's Top Ten Daring Paris Draincovers
No.3: "Mr. Funny Face" ~ Introduction 
by Sab Will,  wannabe offbeat Paris street guru

There exists in my city a small group of individuals sharing  a singularly original and possibly unhealthy passion: Paris draincovers.

In fact we may not be as few as I'm imagining, and we can even start sub-categorising these low-down individuals into those who decorate the things and those who photograph the results.

Not that a Paris draincover, nor any other functional metal street plate (electricity, gas, phones, cable TV, metro air vents,  quarry entrances, prison escape tunnels, ghouls' and goblins' lairs...) needs to have been chromically enhanced in order for them to be interesting. You can often conjure up funny faces and pleasing abstract patterns from the most mundane of  materials.

Is my condition serious? C'est grave, docteur? Perhaps, but for those of you who are also enchanted by such frivolity, welcome to my Top Ten Daring Paris Draincovers, including some of my favourite smile-inducing street finds from all over the city. Will the Paris streets ever stop serving up surprises from the depths, I wonder? I certainly hope not!

Sab's Top Ten Daring Paris Draincovers
No.3 ~ "Mr. Funny Face"

Although I didn't know it at the time, this shot was the precursor to all of my street-based Paris Top 10s. I was delighted by the way this perfectly functional structure, with a cheeky twist of the imagination, makes a wonderfully funny face to cheer up the pavement and turn a weary walk into a trail of discovery.

And I bet I'm not the only one to have amused myself by finding faces and figures in manhole covers, drain pipes, leaf shadows and even trials of fresh urine.

Well ok, maybe the rest of you have limits, but my fevered imagination doesn't seem to. Of course, I also amused myself afterwards, allowing myself, as part of my Paris & I iPhone photography blog concept, to play around with the image until I discover something I like. The image you see here is where I stopped.

I've seen some wonderful anthropomorphic creations over my years in the Paris streets, but none has charmed me quite as much as this funny face beneath our feet. You feel tempted to wonder if the creators of these things ever had a human head in mind when they were deciding on the shape and location of the various holes and hoops called for by whatever it was they were designing. You feel tempted to think they did.

Because it's human nature to search for similarities with what we have seen before, in order to convince ourselves that the universe is still vaguely in tune with what it was when we went to sleep yesterday evening, or last closed our eyes.

Do you see a face up there, or down there, if you like? Of course you do. Even if you're not particularly convinced, I would still put a large amount of money on you identifying the same parts as the eyes, nose and mouth as I do.

There's very little less important to us than people's faces. Our environment is important, of course, so we don't bump into the edge of the couch or get run over, but it tends to be more predictable generally speaking. What we run and truly gauge our lives by, however, is other people, and their reactions to us in particular. We're a subtle, if often stupid, species, with a highly tuned ability to sense feelings an act upon them to our advantage, preferably, largely based on what we 'read' from others expressions - and facial expressions most of all.

Would you say the lowly chap up there is happy, sad, or something else entirely? Think about it for a moment before deciding.

Now think about the fact that you've just assigned real human emotions to the the grimy amalgam that goes to make up some sort of concrete or bitumen or whatever, punctuated with various pieces of industrially  formed and shaped iron I suppose, all with the common purpose of covering up a hole through which we would otherwise fall into a veritable river of shite and stuff, probably breaking our legs and our necks in the  process.

I'm sorry, what were those emotions you assigned to 'him' again?

Personally, I find him comically sad; a sort of tragic cartoon character. He's got a hint of a smile which you can't help wanting to be more pronounced - why? - because we naturally want people to be happy, don't we, drain cover or no drain cover! And yet there's something about his wide open left eye and that almost teary right one which screams out a disconcerting mixture of melancholy and desperation. 'I'm a manhole with a soul - get me outta here!'

I don't walk over him any more.

Discover all my daring Paris draincovers... 


* Sab Will runs Photo and Curios Tours in Paris, and also manages a variety of Paris and photography-themed sites and blogs. He writes an illustrated Paris Chronicle every day, runs a Meetup group for Paris lovers, interviews Paris personalities and reviews Paris books (on this blog), and even contributes to the city's street art (shh), so feel free to browse some of the links below and in the right-hand column to find out more about what he gets up to out there...

© 2011 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Suggestions, questions, requests and offers always welcome!

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