Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Quick Stroll in Père Lachaise . . .

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I've been away from the blog and the blogosphere for a little while, have been a bit under the weather of late, but am hoping all that will pass and the breezes that blow will soon fill my sails again, and set us off across the blogging seas, full speed ahead, and damn the icebergs !
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The two books of photos that were in the works have just arrived, and I'm thrilled with the quality of the printing, they are a pleasure to peruse. I've added links in the post about them (here) which you can click on to see a full simulation of both books, with pages you can turn right on your screen.
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In the meanwhile, I was in Paris again the other day, and couldn't resist the opportunity to go take a quick stroll in Père Lachaise on a chilly but sunny late afternoon. These are a few of the photos done that day. The problem with Père Lachaise Cemetery is that it is so incredibly densely packed, and vast, that one could spend months trying to explore all its nooks and crannies and alleys and cul de sacs. Nearly everywhere one looks there is art, art from over the past few hundred years. A gold mine for photographers who enjoy that sort of thing. Like me. Believe me, I often count my blessings for living so close to Paris and being able to go spend a day there whenever the spirit moves me. For even just a short walk in a previously unexplored corner of Père Lachaise can yield up unsuspected visual treasure.
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Just inside the entrance on the west side, along the Boulevard de Mesnilmontant, this woman in bronze greets the arriving visitor. I can think of worse welcomes. And then setting off into the maze, one quickly stumbles on all sorts of sights. Oh, and am entering this over at Taphophile Tuesday, as I suppose after all these years, I am a confirmed taphophile, there can be no doubt.
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This translates as : "The book of life is the supreme book, which one can neither close nor open of one's own volition, and when you would like to return to the page in the book where you were in love, you find that you are already at the page where you die"
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The Alpha and the Omega...
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This next is interesting in that the name at the base of the bust, if you can make it out, is Pozzo di Borgo. Over the past few months a new French movie titled "Intouchables" has set records for attendance, a truly fabulous film, about a paralyzed man and his caretaker. The film is based on a true story, and the name of the handicapped person the film is about is Pozzo di Borgo. Am wondering what the relationship between the person buried here in Père Lachaise and the man in the film is, but most probably an ancestor. A chance find, out of the tens of thousands of graves in Père Lachaise.
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38 comments:

Oakland Daily Photo said...

Parisian cemeteries always remind me of small cities. I think it's because of the way all the headstones are so vertical and close together. A necropolis, I guess you'd say. Your photos, as always, put the viewer in the scene.

French Girl in Seattle said...

Dear Owen. Thank you for your visit today. Thank you, too, for this tour of le Pere Lachaise. I spent quite some time there myself last summer, but when the house got broken into, and my laptop was stolen, I lost all my shots, just like that. Yours are better, of course, because you notice all the tiny details. I agree that is a fascinating place, and one can learn a lot there, since so many names (faded or not) can be linked to chapters in French and Parisian history. Well done, Monsieur le Crapaud. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle) PS: Oui, I saw the Artist and loved it. Can't wait for the Oscars.

Ann said...

Definitely worth a look if I ever get back to Paris. Visiting graveyards wasn't something that appealed to me in my younger days.

Pat Tillett said...

Every photo as beautiful as the one before it. VERY nice...

Steve said...

As always, Owen, you are a tonic for a grey day...

CaT said...

pretty pics!
i see so many pictures of this cemetery on so many different blogs.. i really should go there once..

Pastelle said...

J'ai découvert un nouveau mot "taphophile". Je m'en souviendrai.
Et de très belles statues.
Des photos émouvantes.

Lorrene said...

You always have the greatest photo's.
Only in France.
May you soon have your sails running full speed ahead.

Catherine said...

This is so bizarre as I was waiting for your next post to tell you that you were indeed a taphophile - as last week I also discovered a meme called taphophile tragics - is it the same one?? I had never heard the word before and thought it described you perfectly!! lovely shot as always!!

Owen said...

Hi Oak, a necropolis for sure, perhaps one could even say a meganecropolis... It is not always easy to find footing to get into some areas, the stones are packed so tightly...

Owen said...

Hi Vero, ah that is awful, the theft of a portable causing lost photos... I've gotten a bit paranoid about that subject since several years ago when a lightning strike in the backyard nearly wiped my computer out, the disk was salvaged in extremis. Ever since I have multiple external hard drives to keep everything backed up and hopefully out of harms way. Sorry you lost your photos from Père Lachaise... guess you are just going to have to go back there.

And wasn't the dog wonderful in The Artist ?!

Owen said...

Hi Ann, I suppose sensibility and tastes change with the passing years. For some reason for a long time now I've enjoyed wandering cemeteries and searching for art and touching memories.

Owen said...

Many thanks Pat... really appreciate your thoughts !

Owen said...

Dear Steve, would you like a drop of gin and a twist of lime with that tonic ?

Owen said...

Hi CaT, although Père Lachaise is heavily visited, due to some of the celebrities buried there, if you get off the beaten track in there, it is a gold mine of art to find, unbelievably dense and rich. But there are many, many other beautiful cemeteries in France. As there are many beautiful places to explore outside of cemeteries in France also... :-)

Owen said...

Chère Pastelle, C'est un joli mot, et c'est vrai, on devient un peu "phile" de la philosophie et art dans les cimetières, si l'on se laisse aller... Merci mille fois, ton passage me fais plaisir sur une journée polaire...

Owen said...

Thanks Lorrene ! These sails may need a little mending, but hopefully they will patch up alright and be ready for service with the coming of Spring.... just around the corner now, right ? Ok, still February to survive...

Owen said...

Hi Catherine, many thanks for thinking of me... funny about the meme Taphophile Tragics, or Taphophile Tuesday, yes it is the same, and several people told me about it pretty much simultaneously a few weeks ago; it's a great project, and I've been trying to make time to participate. See you there perhaps...

Robert Geiss said...

Thank you very much for this walk, as it has been '91 when last I've been there.

Am not sure whether one is allowed to take pictures over here, I shall try.

Please have a good new month and Thursday ahead.

Roxana said...

oh... impossibly touching, as all your cemetery works - as you know, i have difficulty in commenting here, as i find myself truly speechless, grief, love, frailty, too much to bear... and yet the photos possess a cold detachment, their own beauty and immortality, transcending everything...

louciao said...

I like the picture with the blue pot the best, but I will not count the ways.

lgsquirrel said...

Thanks for another wonderful tour. Didn't really understand that quote about that book of life - seemed a bit sad.

Stickup Artist said...

I absolutely adore the late afternoon winter lighting you were able to capture bathing these images. The play of light and shadow is wonderful and creates such a lovely mood one does not usually associate with a cemetery. I was particularly struck by the image of the open book with the birds and what I would imagine is a prayer or tribute printed on it. Another gorgeous post!

Julie said...

You are, most definitely, a confirmed taphophile, Owen. There was never any doubt of it.

I have now been three times to PLC, and have no prospect of losing interest or of seeing everything before I, too, depart. Nor would I want it any other way.

In my last visit, as with you this time, I spent a lot of time and energy photographing statues. PLC is different, because instead of generic statues, many of them appear to be replicas of the departed. There is a lot of ego involved in this. Or perhaps it is the love and regard of the bereaved that I am confusing as the ego of the deceased.

I love the stepped down hillside and the jumbled-togetherness too. It takes courage to hop in and around tombstones and not worry about the sensibilities of other visitors or what is beneath ones own feet. I love to do this, but it is a challenge at PLC because the ground is not at all flat. When I go to cemeteries, I try to ignore the graves of the rich and famous, and instead try to succour those who never seem to have a visitor from one century to the next.

I find it very lamentable those two faded images. Lamentable but humbling. It is not really sad, as they at least have a resting place in peace rather than resting where they died in war or passion.

A wonderful post, my friend. I hope that your woes and your tough times ease, and that your blogging returns to its normal keel.

See you next week hopefully ...

Peter said...

I also recently learnt the word taphophile... and I believe I am! The number of photos you can take, the stories to learn and possibly tell about almost every tomb...! I have (of course) also posted on Père Lachaise and the other Paris cemeteries, but for some reason I have concentrated on the Montmartre one. I'm looking forward to a common visit there, once the weather gets a bit warmer and when you when you feel ready for it! Take care and have a nice weekend, in the warmth of your house!

Owen said...

Dear Robert, '91 ? That's over 20 years ago... maybe time for another visit ? There are, apparently, some rules about taking photographs in some French cemeteries too, it seems to depend on local legislation decided by the town councils... but I've never let that stop me from respectfully making images... they are public places, and the art is worth documenting and preserving, as frequently cemeteries are not well maintained, and art deteriorates over time when outside in the weather like that. Looking forward to seeing some images from Athens cemeteries...

Owen said...

Dearest Roxana, I see cemeteries as some of the finest creations of mankind and our fragile civilisation. Some of the earliest traces of civilisation go back to when people first started to treat their dead and departed with reverence and respect, creating art in their memory, providing them with objects to accompany them into the afterlife, and establishing rituals and rites to mark the passage from life into the unknown... Already 5000 years ago in Egypt death and the art associated with it had become a major pillar of culture... Yes, cemeteries speak of celebration to me, celebrating those who went before, helping us through the period of grief and into the period of acceptance and perspective, perspective that we too will pass that way one day, part of the cycle of life, that this too is simply a part of living... be well Roxana...

Owen said...

Oh Lynne, but I love it when you start counting the ways, I'm sure you could give a hint or two of what you are thinking of regarding that blue pot... Funny, I saw it from a distance, it seemed to be the only splash of color in the whole tombstone-scape for some ways around, so I came closer, and closer, and marvelled at its harmonious blue existence. I hope someone will plant a pile of seeds in it, I think it deserves an overflowing bouquet of vibrant wildflowers growing in it...

Owen said...

Hi LGS, very welcome... the quote on that page is one I've seen in a few different forms, but had never seen one like this on white ceramic with birds... Whoever penned that phrase is just saying that we do not choose the time of our birth or death, and that death may surprise us while we are planning other things in our life...

Owen said...

Dear Stickup, the light was indeed marvellous that afternoon. In these northern latitudes the sun is low most of the afternoon in Winter, making for fine light for photos... Turns out I was lucky to get out on a relatively mild afternoon there a week ago, because now it has turned bitter cold, and I wouldn't have lasted long, fingers would have frozen to the camera... Hope you had a wonderful time with certain travellers...

Owen said...

Hi Julie, you are so right, it requires great presence of mind and not a little agility to navigate safely on foot in Père Lachaise, up hill and down dale, over stone, around vaults, minding rusty old railings that only too easily can snag loose clothing, yes, one must be careful indeed. But the rewards are worth the effort, and were I a bit superstitious I might even hope to fancy that some of the most hard to reach tombs might harbor a departed soul who would be touched that a visitor came to pay respects simply by venturing or adventuring into difficult to reach spaces, to read the names and dates and other stories chiseled in stone or cast in iron... so many stories to find, all part of the rich tapestry of life and life ended. A fine weekend to you... and thank you for hosting Taphophile Tragics. A worthy undertaking if therre ever was one.

Owen said...

Bonjour Peter !
I think you may safely claim the title of "taphophile emeritus", your work has well distinguished you worthy of that title, and may your taphophilic endeavors continue on for many a rewarding year of seeking and finding and reporting on. It will be with great pleasure to join you as soon as possible for more outings. And there is another place north of Paris, not far from where we went one day underground, this time above ground, which I think you would enjoy enormously, some phenomenal outdoor art there, which I saw a few months ago, but I need to go back there soon, because there is a cemetery there which I did not see yet... let's stay in touch for that, ok ? ...

James said...

I love seeing these pictures but now I really want to go back and take some myself. I'll just have to be content looking because It's going to be awhile before I'm able to go to Paris again.

Sorry to hear that you were under the weather.

Owen said...

Hey James, I still have quite a few from the day we were there together that I haven't posted yet, will have to get back into that archive and pull some more out. Things tend to get a little buried with time. I just backed up my hard drive yesterday... there were over 75000 files on it ! Aaarrrggghhhh ! :-)

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

Like Lynne I enjoyed the blue pot, but I also liked the sycamore or ash keys cushioned in the moss. All this talk of of 'lovers of tombs' is enthusing me. Cemetries around here don't go back as far as European ones and are not so artistically endowed but I certainly enjoy wandering around them. Good health Owen and thanks for your visit earlier today :-)

Le Journal de Chrys said...

Tu sais rendre ces visites très poétiques. J'aime notamment les photos des statues. Passe un bon weekend Owen!!!!

Ann Somerset Miles said...

Superb images - so glad to discover your blog (via a link from Laurie Manton)

Virginia said...

I"m a latecomer to Paris cemeteries but think now that I"ve added the Cimietiere des chiens to my list I qualify to be in your auspicious presence dear Owen! And I say we let dear Peter in as well. He has documented many , many resting places. I hope to get back to my dear Paris again and join you all for another day full of friends and photographs.