Goldsmiths Urban Photography Summer School

Next Wednesday morning (4 August), at the Urban Photography Summer School (Goldsmiths, University of London),  I’ll be presenting my work on ‘abandoned objects’ found in the streets of Paris.

The work is called ‘Paris Traces’ and includes three main series of images (see also

– ‘Poubelles’ : trash cans sealed off after terrorist bombings. Passers-by started to leave objects and trash they didn’t want on top of the cans. The trash piled up and formed unconscious, communal installations. When one person had placed something, the available space was restricted, so that the next person had to think where to put their piece of trash. The growing pile was, then, genuinely constructed.  It reminds me of the ‘cairns’ or piles of stones found by paths in mountains, each walker adding a stone as he or she passes.  And the little stones put onto graves in Jewish cemeteries.


Trash can ('poubelle') in Paris sealed off after terrorist bombings

– ‘Shoes’: These are pairs of shoes left deliberately in the streets of Paris for someone to take.  There are very few charity shops in Paris, so people who want to pass on a good, but unwanted, pair of shoes, leave them neatly in the street. The shoes, where and how they were left, all tell part of a story. But, rather like the Surrealists’ ‘exquisite corpse’ (cadavre exquis) parlour game, each part of the narrative is added, anonymously, by a different person in turn. The full story is known by no-one.

Pair of shoes as I found them on rue La Fayette.

–  – The iconic singer, Jim Morrison, of ‘The Doors’, is buried in the beautiful Paris cemetery, Père Lachaise, up in the 20th arrondissement. The authorities got very annoyed back in the late 1980s when people making a pilgrimage to the tomb would leave objects around the grave, draw graffiti on other gravestones and hold late-night vigils with guitars, candles and pot. They cleaned up the whole area and made it quite hard to find the tomb, which is tucked away from any of the paths.  The ‘pilgrims’ started to leave messages and directions on how to find the grave, all over the cemetery.

Graffitti about Jim Morrison at the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

Another series  – ‘Quai du Louvre’ – is a scale reproduction, in black and white photos, of the line of Silver Birch trees along the banks of the river Seine between the Pont du Carousel and the Pont des Arts.

On Saturday 20th May, 2000 on the Quai du Louvre, in Paris, between the Pont du Carrousel and the Pont des Arts on the right bank of the Seine, there were 35 silver birch trees. There should have been 41. The others had been blown down by the hurricane of 26th December, 1999.  Most of the trees are decorated with graffiti, etched into the bark by tourists, lovers, people just hanging out. This is a snapshot of the trees and graffiti on one day.  Since then, new trees have been planted, while the graffiti has evolved.

This series is presented as a continuous strip of images, in the exact order in which the trees appear to someone walking upstream from the Pont du Carrousel. A maquette presents this series as a ‘concertina’ book, with postcard-sized images that open out to several metres in length.

One of a series of Silver Birch trees on the Quai du Louvre, Paris

Author: petecoles

Writer, Editor, Translator, Photographer, Sessional lecturer Editor-in-Chief at Morus Londinium

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