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If These Walls Could Talk

The weather in Paris has been absolutely terrible for the past week – gray skies, the occasional drizzle, low light… bref, a photographer’s nightmare. Experiencing sharp pangs of photography withdrawal crisis, I decided to resort to plan B: taking photos inside Paris’ subway stations.

I spent about an hour hopping on and off trains on lines 7 and 10, and navigating the hallways of each stop, looking for interesting ads to photograph for my Illusionists archive. I had noticed that at the Odeon stop on line 10 there has been quite a bit of vandalism, directed at the newest video billboards that are becoming ubiquitous around Paris. All the video screens at this station have been smashed – and some of them carry a “No Pub” (“No Advertising” message).

What made an impression on me was the reaction of passersby as they saw me taking photos. Parisians – just like New Yorkers – are used to being surrounded by camera-wielding tourists year-round. But they simply don’t expect to see someone taking photos of billboards inside a subway station. At 9 o’clock at night. People stared at me with curiosity, as I paced up and down the platform, taking photos of bikini and phone ads, sometimes timing the snapping with the arrival of a train. It was pure joy to see fellow passengers as they turned their backs and started examining the ads for the first time. This happened quite a few times – people young and old would simply stop in their tracks and study the ads I was photographing. Conversations were started. So, the Lisa Simpson in me rejoiced at the opportunity to shed light on the saturation of advertising messages and its effects. I look forward to continuing this series of photographs…

As always, click on the photos to enlarge them.