The Republic of France


Man Ray and The Republic of France
Man Ray and The Republic of France

It’s not really a great photo but I always liked it. A few years ago while wandering through la Cemètiere du Montparnasse  in Paris, I stumbled upon the final resting place of Man Ray. As you can see it was his also his last “objet de l’art.”  I already wrote about this place a few years ago but I only used this image this time because I am off to France this week for a holiday and I needed a good send-off.

All my favorite photographers were either French or lived there for most of their lives. In fact Man Ray went there as a young man and stayed there for most of his life. The only reason he ever had for leaving were the Nazis but he returned right after the war. Yes, it’s picturesque— but that’s not the reason for its attraction—its something else. The food, the wine, the people, the history,—naw— there is something else going on and I just can’t put my finger on it. Sometimes, after a nice quiet relaxing lunch,  I sit in one of those cafe’s, slowly sipping my way through a bottle of wine and I watch the action in the street. People are shopping, talking to neighbors, checking out other people, picking up their kids from school, or anything else that they do and it is just at a different pace. It’s like everything is in slo-mo. France for me is just one long dream sequence and although the wine probably has a bit to do with it. there is also and underlying truth and that is that they are operating at a slightly different pace that here in America.

The other night at a restaurant here in Vermont, the waiter came by and asked us if  we were still “working on it”. I hate that term!  Food is— or should be more than that. In fact it is right up there with sex as a favorite human pastime and nobody thinks of sex as work unless you are a hooker or a porn star. But this schmuck come over to the table and asks if we are still “workin’ on it.”

I think that has something to do with the attitude in Europe and why we are a bit lacking. We tend to see things here as related to business (profit, bottom line, red ink, etc.) or sports (slam dunk, winner, loser, home run, etc.) while they tend to equate things with the senses (I sincerely doubt they have a word for slam dunk). We wolf down our Big Mac and coke at McDonald’s in 12 minutes while they take a few hours over a few glasses of wine. Its just different.

On the other hand, I sometimes think my best photos were taken after a bottle of wine. I get up from my two hour lunch and begin to walk at a slightly different pace and voila!

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