“In the Silent World project, we wanted to study and transform our world’s most symbolic metropolises into imaginary, fictional, impossible places. In our work, we always try to study and put into image the frontier between reality and the world of dreams. Our desire was to put the viewers into a puzzling and uncomfortable place, pushing him to put into question notions of time and space, but mostly our role and position towards the becoming of our world.”
– Lucie & Simon
There are some places that just don’t look right without people in them. Sometimes, in real life, when I find myself in a setting where people should be but aren’t, I’m seized by a fear that something is terribly wrong, like the Rapture has happened and I’ve been left behind just like Kirk Cameron. Once a person appears, my surroundings seem normal again and, of course, that fear seems completely irrational. Recently, I stumbled upon this incredible series of photos by Lucie & Simon that reimagine some of the world’s most frequented places as completely empty and nearly devoid of human life. My initial reaction to these photos was that same Rapture fear, especially because the crowds at the Louvre in Paris and the hustle and bustle of New York’s Times Square are still so fresh in my memory. But the more I look at them, the more their stillness speaks to me, soothing me rather than scaring me. There is something beautiful about complete quiet and about these abandoned settings, man-made but standing alone, without a human in sight; something beautiful about the fact that I will probably never witness stillness on as large a scale as this in real life.
You can see more photos from Lucie & Simon’s Silent World series here.
I am not a collector of touristy baubles, but I am a collector of maps. Whenever I travel somewhere I always pick up a tourist map for navigational purposes, but I always end up keeping them because I’m borderline obsessive about maps, and I find tourist maps in particular to be really interesting. There are always little visuals for tourist landmarks and sometimes different areas of the city are color-blocked, and it’s just fascinating to see how different the layout of each city is and, as a result, how stylistically different each map is. Since coming to Europe, I’ve become increasingly enchanted by metro maps; they’re such amazingly intricate systems, and I love how the map’s interwoven tendrils of color visually convey that. As I said before, BORDERLINE OBSESSIVE. Nevertheless, here are a few maps from my collection.
1 & 2: Paris. 3 & 4: Barcelona. 5 & 6: Rome. 7 & 8: London Tube. 9 & 10: 360° view from top of London Eye. 11: Berlin. 12: Berlin S-Bahn and U-Bahn.
This past Saturday while I was in Paris, I finished watching the kids at 10 pm and had the rest of the evening free, so I decided to continue exploring the city. We had plans to go up in the Eiffel Tower the following day, but I really wanted to be able to see it at night, so I consulted a map to see how far away it was from where I was staying. There was a metro station right next to our hotel, but I have anxiety about navigating public transportation in the U.S., let alone in a country where I don’t speak the language, so I decided that it would behoove me to walk. I knew it would probably take an hour to get there on foot, so I stopped at a grocery store and got a box of cookies and a tallboy for the trek and set out on my journey.
After about thirty minutes of walking, my body started revolting. Since I had walked around a lot earlier in the day my feet were already sore and my joints were achy and my leg muscles were stretch beyond their limit, so the longer I walked, the more painful it became. Each step was like agony. Not even constant sips from my tallboy could ease the pain I was experiencing. But the Eiffel Tower was getting closer and closer with each step, peeking over the tops of buildings every block or so, and I was determined to see it. So I soldiered on. After about an hour and fifteen minutes of walking, I was cursing the hardness of the concrete and my reluctance to use the metro and the Eiffel Tower for not being closer. I was teetering on the brink of just turning back and cutting my losses. But then, at approximately 11:57 pm, I turned a corner and saw it:
It was breathtaking. As in, I literally took my breath away. It was so huge and bright and I felt a warm glow just looking up at it. It was the most physical reaction I’ve ever had to a piece of architecture. I started taking pictures and then started walking up closer to it. After three minutes, at the stroke of midnight, this happened:
It was absolutely magical. I could hear oooohs and ahhhhhs emanating from all around the tower. My only lament was that I was by myself and didn’t have anyone to turn to to say “Wow, if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” So I said it to myself. But I just stood there, watching the lights flicker with my mouth agape, and the fact that my feet were completely useless, and that I still had an hour and a half walk back to the hotel, didn’t matter because I was glad to be in that spot at that very moment, and I knew I had made the right decision in walking there. Seeing the Eiffel Tower aglow and sparkling at midnight was, without a doubt, my favorite moment of my short stay in Paris.
Ah, Paris. We only spent a short day and a half together, and even though what I saw of you was a small fraction of your expansive and multitudinous self, I am enchanted by you and hope to see more of you in the future.
See more of my photos from Paris in my Flickr set here!