In considering just how many 'Top 10s' I could drag out of the actual streets themselves, the more I thought about it, the more daunting a task it seemed.
In terms of what people are currently writing under our Parisian feet, there are artistic (and non-verbal) works, anarchic or political slogans, and more recently advertising from well-known high street brands. Not to mention lovelorn lads laying open their souls on the cold hard concrete; I'm thinking of the plethora of 'Alice je t'aime's which surround the Denfert Rochereau RER station, presumably on the daily route to work of Alice herself...
So, although I'm tempted to specialise my street top tens, I'm going to create one for all verbal expression for the time being and see how long it takes to reach double figures. Another shall be dedicated to less wordy expression. Eyes down: here we go!
Sab's Top Ten Paris Sidewalk Slogans No.3 ~ "Danger To The Right"
It's just possible I've said this before, but if so I'll say it again, but hopefully vaguely differently from last time, because I hate repeating myself. Seriously, I hate repeating myself:
"Paris speaks to me."
That was it. Paris speaks to me. I don't have much say in the matter. I wander around, I keep my eyelids more or less propped up, and... things happen, I guess.
There are probably a few of you thinking that nothing has actually happened here - I've just seen something a bit funny and snapped it, but for me it's much more than that.
In this simple picture there is a vast range of things going on, and many of them are below the surface of the pummelled and pockmarked pavement.
First of all, there's the obvious: a Paris street scene, which happens to be in the 5th, just around the corner from the Sorbonne, on a wet and windy wintery evening.
An inherent part of this vista are the people scurrying hither and thither, to the left, to the right, jumping little red men, coveting greenies, and generally trying to get where they're heading with the least collateral damage possible, given the lurking menace.
For below our feet are the city planners, those who have our deepest well-being at heart. Or at least at the heart of their job descriptions. "Danger à gauche" (Danger to the left) they write, inciting you to... look left, although the arrow's pointing right, before you cross the road, whether or not a "PHV" (LGM)* is in attendance.
And diving down another layer or so is the 'blagueur', the joker, who delights in derailing the best laid city plans to their diabolical purposes, generally political. "Danger à gauche" has been wittily diverted into "Danger à droite" (danger to the right), alluding to the eternal political struggle and of course the up-coming presidential election when all the wags come out to play.
Although funnily enough I've yet to see a "Danger à droite" sign turned into a lefty version. Only the righties seem to have the right to be left lagging behind in the street's susurration. I'm still working on a theory for that one.
So would it be going to far, after all these onion skins, to peel away just one more layer and say that what you are looking at is to a great extent the invention of a Parisian street photographer, who may or may not want you to see something he saw, or perhaps something completely different?
Only you can be the judge of that one.
I saw several things when I took this shot, and assorted others were rattling around my brain just out of camera shot, lurking, but present nevertheless.
The people are not quite coincidental, although they will probably never be able to reclaim their various bodily appendages that go to make up a vital part of this image. The striped lines and the chequered background seem to complement each other somehow, going neither here nor there. And of course the framing of the arrow, the words, the people, all the while without dropping the camera or the beer can would be entirely of the artist's making. Almost like you were there. The imperfection belongs to him too, but then again I've never understood perfection, and feel far more drawn to its antithesis.
And if you think the story ends there, you're only half right, because this may be only the beginning, and you're the next part of the saga. Whether you are inspired to go out into the subversive streets of Paris or your own home town to seek the sly subterranean dudes who do the dirty while the rest of us are snoozing, or simply pass on or 'like' this post, you'll be continuing the legacy of the thoughts seeping out of my fingers as I type. As a reader of these words, consider yourself touched!
* Sab Will runsPhoto 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...