We hang suspended somewhere between the grand exodus of July, when the city folk flood out towards their own private Promised Land, be it seaside or mountaintop, and the end of August, heralding the grand return, the sudden rush of population that arrives en masse for the opening of school doors. The streets are left deserted, sidewalks empty of crowds. The drowsy days of summer, and the city is ours to discover. Walking through the market, my camera poised, aimed at what I have long considered simply ordinary ingredients with which to feed my family, framing each image, fruit, vegetable, pastries, meats have become objects of art and desire. Leaving the market and strolling through the streets on these hot, lazy days of the end of the season, I peer through my iphone, my eyes scanning up and down buildings, around and across squares, contemplating individuals as they cross my path, and I discover a visual playground, a play, curtain lifted on Act I, filled with matter and substance for excitement and admiration. I see beauty, humor and magic where I once only saw blank walls, a blur of bodies, dirty sidewalks.
Voyage à Nantes. Cultural events and artistic manifestations color the town exciting; walls light up and the ground transforms into a magic carpet. Ice cream stands and bars spill out onto the street, becoming at once front row center to the greatest show on earth and the stage itself, brimming with characters and action. Graffiti moves and twines around corners, paintings larger than life jump out into my path, tiny images play hide and seek, awaiting discovery and my consideration. Although grime and soot encrust tangles and swags of masonry flowers hanging delicately over doorways, besmudge stone faces and Madonnas secreted away in niches, remnants of other eras, each lends a romance to this city of mine, together they tell a tale if only one takes the time to look up and notice.
I snap picture after picture and lock them away for another time. I collect image after image for the days that I forget the beauty and grace of life, the humor of living. I have learned to slow down and look around and what I spy makes me catch my breath in wonder or smile in lightness. So many years living in one city and we tend to become blind to the details of the world around us. We become bored and restless, expecting grand things in shapes and sizes too hard to miss, gifts wrapped up larger than life and handed to us noisily, bells and whistles catching our attention, pointing and shouting Me Me Me! But there is so much hidden, hidden out in the open, silent and still. Like those old kid’s games we used to play, Red Light Green Light or Statues, we look yet we see nothing but unmoving shapes, yet look closely, or turn away your eyes then flash around quickly quickly and it all comes to life!
My camera, my iphone have opened up a secret garden, an Ali Baba’s Cavern filled with treasures galore! I now see what I have been missing for all of the year’s I have lived in this city, years in which I wandered through town with my head down, eyes averted. And I see more and more each day. Art is everywhere; a jumble of beauty and silliness and romance and history ornament Nantes, the obvious and the clandestine, changing the face of a staid bourgeois city. Art and architecture in a torrent of colors and designs reshape the city, adding excitement and personality and I capture it every time I walk out onto the street. Joyously.