I made it back to Europe far sooner than I expected in life. My sister Tess was studying abroad in Rome, and she was meeting us along with another sister (Lacy) and some friends (Marcos and Brittany) in Paris to start our Baltic tour through Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Greece.
Seven years after I first found myself at the Eiffel Tower, I had returned. It was fairly surreal, but also pretty regular. The Eiffel Tower doesn’t quite hold the romance for me that it holds for most – not entirely sure why. Which is why I love this photograph: it shows a side of the tower that most people don’t notice. Pure industry. Abstraction. Just iron.
Right outside the Parisian catacombs sits a souvenir shop – it’s unclear whether or not the catacombs runs the store or if its independent. It’s full of kitsch: skeleton key chains, t-shirts, absinthe. This juxtaposition struck me because the skull postcard sits right next to a pipe, not rusted, but chipping. The pipe used to be painted red underneath (who knows how long ago in a city like Paris), but with years of wear and tear, the beige paint has slowly peeled, revealing a shape oddly resembling a skull.
Underneath the streets of Paris sit millions of skeletons of Parisians from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Most of the bodies were brought to the catacombs after their original cemeteries were becoming overcrowded. Very few Parisians were buried directly into the catacombs. After waiting (yes) 3 hours in line just to enter, the walk underground took about 45 minutes. After a while you become completely desensitized to the dozens of walls of bones stacked 5, 6 or 7 feet high. It was quite an amazing operation. Here’s just one wall.
At the Abbesses metro station in Paris, on the long journey up the spiral stairs to where a carousal awaits you, the walls have been covered completely with graffiti. I’ve always liked the art of graffiti, when it’s tasteful and not on an object or structure that is artistic in and of itself.