My intention is not to shock anyone here, but life is not always as beautiful in an aesthetic sense as it might be imagined, and sometimes one finds oneself face to face with unexpected tragedies. One morning a few weeks back in February with my wife we set out to find an organic farm to the north of Compiegne that sells flour in bulk quantities, to supply my wife's bread-making needs. While my wife was in the farm shop, I was out looking around, and asked a farm worker if they were still finding objects from World War One, as I knew the area where we were was well within the vast region of battlefields in northern France from that conflict. He told me sure, they were still finding all sorts of things, like this unexploded artillery shell that had surfaced a few days previously. . . potentially still dangerous . . . .
After we finished our business at the farm we were going out the access road along a stretch of woods when my wife asked me to stop so she could respond to nature's call in the woods there. I went to look around, and very quickly realized from the pockmarked earth with deep holes and traces of trenches all over that we were indeed in the midst of an old battlefield that had been heavily shelled. And walking around trying to get a sense of what had happened there, I literally stumbled on a dead red fox in the woods there. I have no idea what might have caused the death of the once beautfully fur clad animal, but it immediately brought to mind DH Lawrence's short story : "The Fox", which takes place just after World War One. I was wondering how many animals perished in that brutal conflict from the explosions of artillery shells like the one we had just seen back at the farm. . . .
From one day to the next one never knows what fate may hold in store for us. This house with beautiful views of the ocean on the north Brittany coast to the west of Roscoff had obviously burned, the roof had collapsed, littering slate shingles down the staircase. Which serves to point out that we should enjoy what we have today, because one never knows when it may turn out to be a case of : Here today, gone tomorrow . . . .
Just a few posts back, well ok, more than a few, I did a piece with the title "Still Life With No Woodpeckers", which was an obvious reference as I'm sure you all recognized to Tom Robbin's novel "Still Life With Woodpecker" which came out in 1980. It hit a resonating chord with me perhaps because redheads play an important role within. . . if you haven't read it already, I would highly recommend you give it a try. . . of if you have already, leave a comment saying what you thought of it. . .
In the opening pages of Edward Abbey's giant novel "The Fool's Progress : An Honest Novel", his autobiographical character Henry Lightcap uses several shots from a .357 magnum to silence a noisy Fridgidaire refrigerator, an unforgettable kickoff to an epic story of his journey back to his roots. This washing machine which I photographed in a field in France had suffered a similar fate. . .
This past November while out poking around one day I came across a breed of automobile I hadn't been too familiar with before... the Simca. Founded in 1934 in France, they disappeared as a brand in the 1970's. Reading about all the auto industry woes today one can't help but wonder if some other previously well known names may be heading the way the dinosaurs went in the near future ? I liked the deep blue paint on this one. . .
Again in South Beirut in 2007, I took a quick stroll through the Shiite cemetery not far from the infamous Sabra & Chatila refugee camp (which is still very much in existence). There were far too many very recent graves there. Mementos of the departed were often displayed in upright glass cases like this one . . . .
I took these two pictures in South Beirut in April 2007, less than a year after over 400 mostly residential buildings in that already relatively poor quarter had been blown to pieces by the Israeli bombing campaign in the summer of 2006. Reconstruction was in progress, but far from finished, and publicity for certain political icons was in evidence everywhere. . . .
A larger view of this strong contender in my dream house market search was posted quite a ways earlier in these pages, this is another of the shots done that day back in 1986 just outside St Malo. Something about the sardine tin here said it all for me. . .
As paint is often applied to boats in multiple layers over the years, it often weathers back off revealing multiple colors. . . Speaking of boats, I just spent the better part of an hour enjoying the photos posted in a blog by Sarah, who has clearly been spending alot of time tramping the back roads and "sentiers des douaniers" (customs patrol paths) along the coasts of Brittany and catching alot of beautiful images along the way. . . These two shots are therefore in tribute to her blog ; were taken this past December near Morlaix.
Another couple of scenes from the Canary Island of Tenerife in 1994. These cable spools had remained unmoved for so long people were using them as billboards for circus posters. . .
Vivian, this is another one that is going to need your bicycle pump to put some air in the tires before those coffees can be delivered. . . hope no one was expecting the coffee to still be hot by the time it gets to you in this old wreck. . .
They don't make them like this anymore. . . look at all that chrome, and the wrap around windshield ! If it may be of interest to one or two of you faithfully returning readers, the structure at the left side of this 1987 photo is the Swarthmore College Field House. . .
The image of the clown behind the window in the post just below this one dredged up a memory of an overgrown sign I photographed back in 1988 in Pennsylvania, near Lancaster, which in turn reminded me of two other signs from the same time frame, one for Lancaster County Motors Inc., and the other for South Jersey Real Estate with a lovely rooster. . . signs of our times.
These details are from the same very dilapidated and rather abandoned looking house with an attached barn in a small village near Bourbonne les Bains (Baths of Bourbon Whiskey?). . . I love stumbling on surprises like this piano playing clown image behind an ancient window, or the horse carving on a brace holding up a roof section on the front of the barn. Over the door carved in the stone it says "Dieu Soit Beni 1724", (God Be Blessed 1724). I would have really loved to have been able to go inside and see what kind of stuff had piled up in there over the past nearly 300 years. . . .
If you remember perhaps the Bob Dylan song Ballad For A Thin Man, well, this is where the thin man lived. . . in a very thin house, with narrow stairs inside, a long thin bedroom, and no doubt the thinnest of bathtubs possible. . . .
If you have delved at any length into earlier postings in these expanding pages, you will have realized by now that I am dreaming frequently of moving away from this murderously modern world of ours where business cases and Power Point presentations about excessive staffing chew people up and spit them out right and left . . . and setting up shop in a dream house in the woods somewhere, anywhere where the vibrations are right. I found a strong candidate today . . . this place has good solid walls, it just needs a little bit of roof work. It has a strong advantage in that it is already partially furnished ; the second photo here shows the interior with an attractive box spring + mattress set, and a bedside table thrown in as a bonus . . . If I don't show up at work next week, you'll know where to find me. I just hope there's a high speed internet line there, so I can keep on blogging . . . .
Nearly every village in France has a monument to commemorate the men from the town who perished in World War One. Some are more interesting visually than others, though all bear a sobering message from the not so distant past. This one in Fresnes-sur-Apance, photographed this very afternoon, had a particulary captivating sculpture on top of it. Although I was wondering how often it may have served as a lightning rod. . . holding aloft bronze laurels in a thunderstorm may not be such a good idea. . . And how many millions of men were struck down as if by lightning during those awful years ?
Even today there are signs visible to warn us that lightning from above may strike without warning at any time . . . we may think that life is stable and safe and secure when suddenly, from out of the blue, lightning bolts blow it all down. If we are lucky enough to survive the initial blast, then we may start down the long road of picking up the pieces. Both of these images reminded me strongly of Robert Capa's famous photo from the Spanish Civil War. . . the things we do to each other . . . (and if you're wondering, this is a real sign, photographed this morning on an electrical transformer in Bourbonne les Bains, France)
And while on the subject of publicly displayed sculptures, which abound in France, here are a few from a walk in Senlis a few weeks ago. From Joan of Arc to Eugene Odent, who was the Mayor of Senlis in 1914 when the Germans invaded France. Because Senlis dared to oppose the advancing German troops Eugene Odent was taken hostage and then executed by firing squad on 2 September, 1914, among the early victims of that terrible conflagration. The southern quarter of Senlis was also shelled and burned at that time in retribution for the resistance met there.
On the right hand side of this page is a link to Michael Keropian's sculpture site, if you haven't taken a look already, please do ! He has been doing some amazing work over the years, alot of which you can see photos of on his site. . . like the tigers on Detroit's Tiger Stadium, or the bust of Frank Zappa. An amazing guy. . . Anyway, am posting these shots I took in Chantilly, (France, not Virginia) this past weekend on a beautiful Spring afternoon. . . in the hope that Mike, and maybe a few others, will enjoy them.
In the same afternoon a few weeks ago, down in Lyon, stumbled on these hot pink gates and a pink bridge across the Saone River. Locked gates for keeping people out. . . bridges for helping people across. I know what I prefer ; unless the gates were to be thrown open in welcome. . .
I've seen alot of signs over the years, but never one that had weathered quite like this one. Facing south, it had been catching a full dose of sunlight every day the sun was out, and clearly wasn't up for the challenge. And against my Canon's automatic shutter speed it had no chance at all to resist. You can just make out the Chateau which it was supposed to be an advertisement for. I hope the Chateau looks better than the sign for it. . . .
Having spent a week on the Canary Island of Tenerife in 1994, I can attest with these photos that at that time they had a little bit of a problem with wrecked car disposal. Every time I turned around there was another car cadaver in view, many were badly mangled. I had to wonder what was causing so many wrecks on such a small island ? Was it due to tourists partying too heavily before heading back to their hotels ? Was it local people drinking too heavily to forget about all the tourists ? I can only hope the island has been cleared up a little since I was there. May have to go back one of these days to do a check up visit. . . could use a little sun. . .
Two books of Owen's Photos are now available and can be seen in their entirety by clicking on the links that are in this post about them. Enjoy ! If you would like to order one, please drop me an e-mail to owenmart333 at gmail dot com
Owen's Photos Now For Sale on ImageKind
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If you see a photo in this blog which you would like to have on a wall at home, just let me know and I will be happy to upload it to the ImageKind site where it can be purchased at the link above.
A Small Show in Paris
Do Drop By : December 2011, Jan 2012, Click photo for info
Unless credited otherwise, all photos and text in this blog are original work protected by international intellectual property and copyright laws. Please ask for permission if you wish to use something.
Why ? Answer : Why not ? Originally from a foreign country, now French and living in France for the past 20 years. Am still adapting to culture shock. Frequently go out scouring the countryside, camera in hand, looking for my dream house, for my dreamtime, for my dreams.
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