This is where I went to catch a bus to go to the Vatican Museum on my first day in Rome. It’s a vintage bus shelter, hard to date, but I’d guess post-war, maybe as late as 1950s. What you can’t see in the picture is that in the middle of the structure is a news-stand. Today it’s not so bad, but I wouldn’t want to have had to work there even as recently as the 1980s when diesel exhaust was much heavier than it is now.
That’s actually a sense-memory I kind of miss – you knew you were in Europe when you smelled the diesel exhaust everywhere. That and certain kinds of tobacco. It’s still a noxious odor, but the emotional context of it is so positive. I suppose geologists feel that way when they smell sulphur or biologists with methane.
I’ve been making a habit of photographing things we see every day but take for granted, like mailboxes and fire hydrants. I couldn’t pass up the bright yellow mailboxes of Paris, and especially not this one that has been so overtly decorated with graffiti. I think I got lucky that this one was on a dark blue background at least in part, to set it off and compliment it.
I know, I know, the hydrant from Chalon already made an appearance, but it was soooo long ago I figured you all had forgotten it, and it also fits the theme of “things”, especially brightly-colored things that we see but take for granted. So here it is.
I’ve also been photographing the bikeshare bikes in DC, so I had to take a crack at interpreting their French cousins. Unlike here in the US, the bikeshare bikes seem to be of a single universal design in France. In Paris and in Chalon they are the same design, with the same colors, the prime difference being in the logos on the rear wheel cover and the local advertising. Frankly I could have done an entire photo-essay on the bikeshare bikes but I had other things on my agenda.
Newsstands fall into that category as well, I think, of things we see but ignore. They’re very functional, and in places that have them, we tend to notice their presence/absence more than we do their form. This one is very Parisian, but with a modern twist – instead of having static broadsides plastered to the outside, now the ads are LED displays or at least rotating banners so in the span of a minute, you can see three to five different ads scrolling past.
Last but not least, here is a public drinking fountain. I tend to notice them because here in DC for the most part if they exist at all they don’t work. In the 1870s, Baron Haussmann installed public drinking fountains across the city as part of a sanitation campaign, bringing fresh, clean drinking water to everyone. The design of the fountains was suitably ornate, bringing beautification along with safety.