the story behind the photograph: paris.
February 19, 2014 § 5 Comments
Not a day goes by that I don’t see at least one photograph,
largely thanks to Instagram, Pinterest and blogging.
Because of them I’ve seen some truly remarkable photos that have quite literally taken my breath away.
I’m on Instagram every chance I get & I absolutely love the days when I can bundle up under a blanket with a tea in hand and scour through posts to ooooh and aaaaah at all the amazing photography that some of my favorite lady bloggers put out there.
I’m a visual person,
I’d much rather look at photos than read words,
but sometimes the words can change the entire perception of a photograph.
What could have been just a simple photo that I took less than two seconds to scan over suddenly has a story behind it that completely changes the way I look at it,
and it’s this thought that’s the inspiration behind a new series I’ve decided to start: The Story Behind the Photograph.
Once in a while, rather than publish 10-40 photos in one post, I’ll spotlight one and share with you a few more words than normal about certain events that transpired when it was taken.
And I’m starting with this one:
This was taken on my last day in Paris this past June.
I had seen my friends Jen and Kathryn off earlier that morning and spent the remainder of it exploring the city on my own.
I walked along the Seine to the Louvre, explored the Tuileries Gardens, enjoyed lunch at Le Café Diane, wandered down to Place de la Concorde, and cut down Boulevard Saint-Germain towards Le Jardin du Luxembourg.
After all this walking I was quite exhausted and in the mood for a small bite to eat.
Just up the street from Le Jardin du Luxembourg I stumbled on a two-man band playing in front of a small brasserie called Tabac de la Sorbonne.
I sat down, ordered a San Pellegrino and a vanilla honey sundae.
A girl’s gotta treat herself every once in a while, am I right?
I felt like Carrie Bradshaw,
sitting street-side listening to wonderful Parisian music as people walked by, stopped to listen and applaud every so often.
It was the kind of tranquil and wonderful moment that almost encouraged a remarkable, special or unexpected je ne sais quoi to happen,
and that it did.
At least in my books :)
Out of nowhere a man dressed in a white suit walked past the band,
cigarette in hand,
he had to Parisian, I thought.
He had that distressed look to his presence like he was a writer or another type of artist – slightly shaggy hair, shirt tucked in, sleeves rolled up, and walking at such a pace that gave away he was a local.
I couldn’t help but stare at him completely transfixed as he walked by,
it had to have been the suit.
He couldn’t have been more than a few years older than me.
It’s not everyday that I see someone sporting an aggressively white suit.
I wondered very briefly where he must have been going, who he was, and most importantly why we was wearing that much white.
I smiled to myself and thought how funny of a sight that was and returned to watching the performers.
A few minutes passed before my server came over to pull out one of the chairs at the table beside me for someone to sit down,
and it was him.
He must have circled back around out of my sight because he’d been walking in the complete opposite direction.
I don’t know why, but this grin flashed across my face.
I couldn’t get over the white suit,
but then my London living tube behavior kicked in so I sat there silently and continued to listen to the performers.
But then white suit man spoke,
I can’t for the life of me remember what he first said,
probably because I blacked out from the nervousness of hearing him speak french and knowing that in the next 0.72 seconds I had to translate what he was saying into english, think of a response in english, translate it into french and then say it in french.
At that moment a
small big part of me wished I’d ordered a glass of wine instead of water…
I find there’s a strong positive correlation between my wine consumption and how well I speak french,
it’s the strangest of things :)
I answered, he smiled, mental air high-fived myself and looked back towards the performers,
I could tell that his attention was split between me and the performers,
and my blood pressure returned back to normal.
Then white suit man spoke again.
I was so conflicted,
I wanted to do all the talking to practice my french and all,
but the British local in me also just wanted to sit silently and focus on my now melting ice cream sundae.
He asked me why I was eating alone,
so I told him about my day.
I took his nodding along as a sign that I was making sense.
Then more silence.
This statement-answer-silence montage carried on for a few minutes.
My awkwardness did eventually change into intrigue,
wondering what he was going to say or ask next,
and of course hoping my french was comprehendible.
It felt like a scene out of a movie: two perfect strangers sitting side by side enjoying a wonderful afternoon with no agenda,
something that would only happen in a city like Paris.
The performers finally stopped and started packing up,
and just as they started to leave he asked me where I was from,
où habitez vous?
and before I knew it we were talking about Canada, Paris, Europe, tourism, culture, the arts and music,
it sounds like a seemingly typical conversation you could have with a stranger,
but I think the fact that it was all in french made it feel like one of the most sophisticated conversations I’d ever had.
He told me about his childhood growing up in Paris,
he described what the city was like ten years ago,
how much more beautiful it was,
he told me about all the countries he’d visited and loved,
his favorite music,
He was so intriguing,
Such a mystery.
I wasn’t even remotely attracted to him,
but couldn’t deviate my attention away from him.
What was supposed to be a relatively quick bite turned into over an hour of conversation and, for him, cigarettes.
The entire situation was so surreal and random, but refreshing and interesting.
I kept apologizing for how broken and rusty my french was,
yet he kept assuring me he knew exactly what I was saying and how beautiful it was,
he had to have been flattering me.
I eventually told him I had to go,
that I had to catch a train to the airport,
which was completely true.
Without even asking he said,
s’il vous plait, permettez-moi
(please, allow me)
and he paid for my water and ice cream with the sincerest of gestures.
Like the entire last hour, completely unexpected but so nice.
Comment malheureux, je ne vous reverrai
(how unfortunate that I’ll never see you again),
something that even though I knew to be true still left me completely silent and transfixed for a good two seconds,
I smiled and responded:
merci pour une belle après-midi
(thank you for a wonderful afternoon)
I turned and started to walk away before I corrected myself,
et pour ma creme-glacée!
(and for my ice cream!)
He smiled, I smiled and continued to walk away.
I had barely rounded the corner before I could hear him call out to me,
he had chased up to me to return an old receipt I’d purposely left on the table.
Perplexed, I thank him, he smiled again and then walked down the street but in the opposite direction.
I watched him walk for a few steps before I turned around and continued on.
I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face thinking of how an unexpected afternoon that turned into,
and I was quite proud of myself for being able to carry on that long of a conversation in french.
I’ll never forget that afternoon,
and that photo will always remind me of it.
This is the first time I’ve shared this story with anyone,
not even the girls I had gone to Paris with know about the mystery man in the white suit.
I never even learned his name,
and a few blocks after leaving that brasserie I realized there was something else I never learned,
what the deal was with the white suit!
First photo by Luke Bolt for Gary Pepper Girl | Graphic © Lauren Alboini | Second photo © Lauren Alboini