We had a few little flurries of snow yesterday. Nothing that made any difference, other than to make a point of how cold it was, but those few little flakes dancing about on the wind reminded me of all the photographs I took when I went to Paris last month. Then the snow was so thick on the ground it changed the look of the city. It’s place I’ve visited many times and have taken scores of photos, but the whiteness of the ground and sky there everything into relief, compelling me to take even more.
It’s been something I’ve been thinking about in my writing recently too; taking something familiar, maybe overly familiar, and adding something new to make the perspective change, not something necessarily shocking or outrageous, but instead a salient detail which highlights the point of the narrative.
I like this photo of the gardens at the Palais Royal, because, although it’s possible to see how straight the avenues of trees are whatever the time of year, in the summer the leaves and branches create a shady walk, and on a ‘normal’ winter’s day everything blends together in a palette of greys, but on this snowy day, the eye is drawn inexorably towards the vanishing point ahead because of the dramatic contrast between dark and light colours of the elements in the view, and the geometric straightness of the line of trunks as well as the symmetry of the pruned branches.
What awaits the lone figure at the end of her walk? An unhappy encounter with a faithless lover, or a warming cup of hot chocolate laced with cognac in a convivial café with her adult son? Or something else?
Posted by rowena on February 24, 2013
I love it when a random photograph taken simply because the camera was at hand, and a pattern or a shape has caught my eye, gets an outing. I would never have taken a shot like this before the age of digital photography; or I might have done, but it would have been a mistake when I was replacing the film, or accidentally pressed the shutter button storing it away. But these days I take all sorts of insignificant things, if the light intrigues me, or I want to remember the colour of something, or, just because.
In my drawing classes I have discovered that not everyone is drawn to pattern in the same way as I am; and in my writing I know that the telling detail is what can define a character or a situation. Some day soon, knowing the colour of freshly fallen snow on a Parisian balcony under the street lamps, and remarking how the flakes can collect in the curves and corners of the balustrade, are going to be important, I’m certain of it. It always a good thing to be a noticing sort of person……
And thanks to Ailsa for giving me just another excuse.
Posted by rowena on February 3, 2013
If I use the word ‘snow’, what image does it conjure in your mind’s eye?
Is it a Christmas scene of rosy faced children playing in a glowing white landscape, or perhaps a high altitude mountain trek requiring the expert use of ice axe and crampons, or sitting inside beside a roaring fire while great fat flakes settle in cushioned mounds outside, or skiing and sledding, or a bit of city traffic chaos and closed airports, or maybe an igloo?
They say that in some languages of peoples who live in cold countries there is a multiplicity of words for snow, and mountaineers say they can identify different types, which, they say, helps them determine the level of risk in each step. Even a city dweller unused to severe cold can distinguish the crunchy stuff that will afford some traction, from the compressed slippy- slidy stuff that’s going to rob you of your dignity and send you flying.
But back to the original question, if all I do is write ‘snow’ what do you imagine I mean?
Whatever has come into your head, it’s white, isn’t it?
Maybe it was wearing my Moscow hat for the first time in 10 years (it has to be properly cold otherwise my head near explodes with the heat of it; it is like walking around with a cat on my head after all), or maybe it was the icy air and the slipperiness of the pavements, but being in Paris reminded me of the time I had forgotten that snow was white.
I forgot about the whiteness because, in the depths of winter, snow in the centre of Moscow always seemed to look like this: a grey black mush mounded in piles at the side of the pavement and lurking in the gutters and the curb’s edge. Sometimes it was solid and you could risk stepping onto it to start the walk across the road, but, most frequently, it was but a crushed ice topping to a deep puddle underneath, ready to wash over the top of your boot if you made the mistake of stepping in it; and sometimes there was no avoiding it. It was taking that one huge stride to get over it at the pedestrian crossing at the bottom of the Champs Elysees on Saturday that reminded me where I had learned the skill of distinguishing one type of grey slush from another.
So next time you use the word ‘snow’ remember, it’s not always white.
Posted by rowena on January 24, 2013
I’ve had an inspirational weekend in Paris, a bit of culture (blog posts will follow for sure), several cafés, fruits de mer, lots of walking, and of course, snow.
To give you a little taster here is a small collection of ‘statues and snow’. It is so unusual to have so much white snow visible, and lying in the centre of the city; one lady I passed in the street as we trudged through several inches, volunteered that it was the worst she had ever seen.
It is equally rare to see snow nestling in the nooks and crannies of statues and monuments, and I particularly enjoyed the snow up the inside of de Gaulle’s leg.
I enjoyed looking up and around and taking the shots. Even though I’ve been to Paris scores of time, it’s the first time in a long time that I’ve felt inspired to take photographs. So hail to the snow for giving a new perspective and enthusiasm.
Posted by rowena on January 21, 2013
I’m in Paris today in the snow, but the inclement weather can’t stop the dedicated market stall holder and shopper when cheese is at issue.
At least now I’ve a little snack of comte and Saint Marcellin if the train back to London gets stuck in a snow drift……
Posted by rowena on January 20, 2013