"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."  --William Shakespeare

Entries in photographers (4)


A Night of Accessibility


Whether your goal is to have the romantic time of your life, or to gorge yourself silly, or just to wander and discover tiny streets and massive monuments, most of the world agrees (tourists vote with their feet and currency) that Paris is THE destination. While the early kings named Henri gave that idea some traction in the 1500s, Louis XIV started showcasing the place as a world metropolis in 1670 when he ordered the defensive city walls torn down and the Grands Boulevards built on top of them.

More walls went up later, for tax collection purposes, but the impetus to create the Paris of today really took off under Napoleon III, Napoleon I’s nephew, who came back from exile in 1848 with a grand plan in his back pocket, and a willing Prefect of the Seine, Georges Haussmann, to hammer out the details. It’s their Paris of boulevards and monuments that people think of as modern Paris.


But this isn’t a history lesson, it’s merely preface to say that Paris is an OLD city.

And old cities are tough to retrofit for modern needs. Like those of the disabled. Those tiny, romantic sidewalk cafés with tables barely bigger than the average American's girth, narrow walkways between tables, and Turkish toilets in the underground caves, are useless to people in wheelchairs. And cobblestone streets that can barely be navigated in heels probably PUT people on crutches.


Even the Métro, one of the best in the world, first opened in 1900, long before the advent of disabled access, though the old wooden trains used to have seats set aside for the wounded of both wars. But how, one wonders, did they get into the station? Only the newer stations and lines have anything close to adequate elevators, escalators, and train access.

Paris Play had the privilege Saturday of working with a group of photographers from the Paris Photography Meetup Group to document the yearly gathering at Place Stalingrad of Jaccede.com, a group that works to spotlight and lobby for disabled people to gain the same kind of access that most of us take for granted.


Jaccede isn’t about demonstrations or agitation; it creates a survey of the town and offers an app that tells disabled Parisians (and visitors) which shops, Métro stations, restaurants, streets, etc., are most easily used by people with various kinds of disabilities, from the wheelchair-bound to the blind.


The night is also a social gathering of the disabled in large numbers, for dancing, playing, partying, hanging out with volunteer jugglers, tightrope walkers and clowns, and serves as a gentle reminder to the able-bodied who cut through the Place Stalingrad to enjoy a leisurely stroll along the beautiful Basin Villette that Paris is everybody’s city.


Some memories of that night below, and a celebration of some of the citizens that we might sometimes overlook. 








A Paris Neighborhood Close-Up: Place des Abbesses

Welcome to Paris Play's first slideshow post.

While I was traveling last week, tracing my mother's ancestral roots in Norway (more on that to come), Richard was in a five-day photography workshop presented here in Paris by Magnum Photos and its legendary photographer Patrick Zachmann.

One fruit of Richard's labors, a six-minute-and-thirty-second slide show, which you can watch by clicking the link below.

In Richard's words:


Patrick Zachmann’s assignment for me: to discover one small piece of Paris for four days, with one camera (Nikon D7000) and one lens (10-24 zoom).

I chose Place des Abbesses, in a working‐class but gentrifying neighborhood on the slope of Montmartre, with its own chaos‐causing tourist attraction, the Je t'aime wall; its resident homeless population; a slew of buskers; and its cafés and shops to service all.

Please click to enjoy our Place des Abbesses slideshow.


Autumn in August

Isn’t it strange how you set out to look for something, and you find something else?

Richard and I rarely decide ahead of time to write about and photograph a theme, unless it’s a scheduled event, like a parade. Otherwise we stumble upon our subjects. Serendipity, or whatever you want to call it.

But yesterday, we thought we’d go to our local market, and show you how it’s done in France. We arrived at the market on rue Mouffetard an hour after it opened. While it’s usually thronged, there was almost no one there. How odd. A few vendors had set up shop. But there were almost no buyers.



Why? We noticed that a funeral had begun in St.-Medard, the fifteenth-century church right where rue Mouffetard begins. Perhaps people didn’t want to mix life-giving food with death. There was a hearse parked between a vegetable stand and the church. Flowers being stacked in front of the church entrance. But no market, if market implies both buyers and sellers.

Then we realized that we hadn’t reckoned with August. The Parisians—doctors, lawyers, butchers, bakers, shoemakers, tous les Parisiens—take their month’s vacation in August, and the town is eerily calm and quiet. One local joke: You can shoot a cannon down any major boulevard in August and not hit a single French speaker. Unless it’s a Belgian, and they don’t count. (Belgian jokes here are like Newfie jokes in Canada.)



We walked back through Place Monge, which had its own skeletal food market going on, and saw the first yellow and orange autumn leaves. Last week it was too hot in Paris to move, and now, autumn is blowing in? Strange.

When we returned home, Richard processed photos and I worked on a short story.

Richard showed me a photo he’d taken in Place Monge of some eels, displayed with tails in their mouths, like an ouroboros, the ancient representation of things come full circle. But there is something terminally Irish in us that begins to play with words at the slightest opportunity.

“Let’s cut across the Eel St. Louis to the Maison Europeenne de La Photographie,” I suggested, when we had finished our work for the day. “Maybe we can do a post on one of the photography shows.”


Fashion shoot, Eel St. Louis, August 25, 2012


And so we did. One floor was full of fashion photos by Alice Springs. I used to see her and her husband, Helmut Newton, around the swimming pool of the Chateau Marmont when I stayed there as a traveling art dealer, and did my daily laps. They seemed infatuated with fame. Besotted with it. They would make great characters in a Chekhov-like story about character. When someone’s conversation revolves obsessively around one thing, you are seeing their character in action.


Photo and reflected photo in photo (c) Alice Springs


Then we looked at an exhibit called “Charlotte Rampling, Albums Secrets.” There were a number of photos of her by famous photographers (Cecil Beaton, Bettina Rheims, Alice and Helmut, and others). The most astonishing one was by Peter Lindbergh. She was wearing an African outfit of sorts, and with short hair, the length of her neck made her look like an African animal, maybe an antelope.

In another room, we listened to Charlotte Rampling’s beautiful, low voice in French and British English talk about beauty. People say it fades, she says, but it just changes.



There was a series of slide shows from her life, many featuring her three children. I watched them in fascination. Why did I never have children? I wondered. I never had the desire, yet I love children, and am always surprised to hear or read about women about to become mothers for the first time, who worry that they won’t know what to do. I feel I’d know instinctively what to do. I was the oldest of five, and loved reading to my younger siblings, directing plays and magic shows for them. And yet.



Everyone I know who has ever had the notion of past lives seems to remember exotic ones. I seem to recall just two (and this is, of course, nothing but fantasy); in my last life, I was a mother of nine, and a good one, too.

As we left the show, Richard said, “It’s hard to take photos of photos.”

“Unless you approach it like Emily Dickinson, by telling it slant. But I know what you mean. It’s hard to write about them too.”

As we headed for Mexican food, the wind came up. For the first time in months, I needed a sweater. “Summer’s over,” I said.

“Oh no, just wait,” said Richard.

Today, it’s hot again. Summer in the air, but leaves swirling in circles all along the Boulevard St. Germain.






Surrealist Café Opens!

On today's menu, the results of our first Surrealist Café community collage.  Readers will recall that we asked you to walk into a cafe precisely at 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 30, and record, in whatever medium you chose (poetry, prose, photography, etc.), what you observed.  These contributors seized the time, and amazed us with their originality, fecundity and talent.  All contributions are (c) 2011 by their individual creators.

This post is dedicated to the memory of our friend, mentor, role model, and surrealist creative, Jane Winslow Eliot, who died at home in Venice, California on Sunday, July 31.


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Margo Berdeshevsky, Starbucks, Rue de Rivoli, Paris, France:


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John Harris, Les Deux Magots, Boulevard Saint Germain, Paris, France:

Hemingway would have called her "a well built woman," meaning sturdy and with a good shape. Her long hair, cascading in multi-colored curly strands reflects light like the leaves of Paris' majestic plane trees. She is reading Sartre's Nausea in French, and I know she is French because she wears her clothes well, and not the other way around--as with many chic American women. If there is a "seduction" factor in France that goes deeper than sex, it is here in the café, where Hemingway and his women float through like ghosts, making my heart beat faster.


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Diane Sherry Case, Starbucks, 26th and Wilshire, Santa Monica:

I wanted this to be playful. But in came a girl with a bashed-in face. Her remorseful boyfriend spent the night in jail, bloody fists and bloodless heart. He remembered their love way too late as his fist flew toward her face and he just couldn’t stop it, he just can’t stop it. I wanted this to be fun. But here she is, her lips caked with blood. Her son came home all hyped up and wired, swearing, You stupid bitch. Then out flew her truth. I never wanted you to begin with, I was sixteen years old. I just wanted to be playful. But here she stands with a bruised green nose. Plastic surgery, what are credit cards for? A new nose, some pouty lips, as if men will come running with hard-ons for her, a hundred hard-ons, she could choose. She picks up her purse, afraid to be seen, and leaves, as the kid with the derby stands there calling her name, Stella, chai latte, Stella, chai latte. 


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Janelle Balnicke, mobile sidewalk cafe, Worthing-on-Sea, England, UK:

See Worthy Widow Walking by Worthing-on-Sea, Saturday July 30th 1PM



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Tara Ison, Steve's Espresso, Tempe, AZ, USA:

A chalkboard whiteboard blank-parchment fresh-drywalled neck nape, this faceless fetus-soft young boy sitting there back to me, young man man-boy, spread sheet of buttered filo leaves asking to be rolled stuffed baked tasted swallowed whole, a new-shelled pink abalone steak slab smelling of weed and salt and waiting to be licked and nipped by wolves, sniffed and gripped by some mean old bitch who has gone from buttery young flesh herself to crusty dry talon’d owl, who who who is she anymore to taste wet plump tongue and will he leave flee finish his coffee and leap upon his hyped-up hipster sneakered feet and buoyant himself away, will the back of his young man boy neck escape so easily my horned veined crepe’d hand before I am over and done? 


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Stuart Balcomb, Rose Café, Venice, CA, USA: 

TEN CITIES: See how the scene and circumstances change with each new location:

Los Angeles: the Player, in his requisite Hollywood black, pitching a script to a hot, young actress.

Seattle: art dealer in Pioneer Square, lunching with his gallery assistant.

Buenos Aires: metal sculptor in La Boca, tourists from Florida at next table.

Boston: jazz club owner, discussing his lease with landlord's wife.

Seville: meeting his daughter-in-law for the first time, his only son having died last week.

Perpignan: owns four fishing boats, wants to sell one.

Albuquerque: Hitman, flown-in to find former mob member, now in the Witness Protection Program.

Munich: Belgian tourist, imploring his estranged niece to stay and have a litre of Hefeweizen.

Palm Springs: retired airline pilot, moved here for his asthma condition.

San Francisco: bartender on his day off, lunching with waitress he secretly loves, but won't ever tell her.


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Scott MacFarlane, The Bunker, Mount Vernon, WA, USA:


One o’clock      
     from the inferno, from her      
     duodenum raging            
          like Der Führer concussed in his bunker, 
          like a pickax impaling the blue iris of her mortality,
          like stillbirthing.

“I can’t live like this.” Woe and tears
     drip of drugs
          end her Third Reich of agony,
          extract the axe
          resurrect the old her,
          peace of 


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Ann Denk, Café Inconnu, Newport Beach, CA, USA: 


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Joanne Warfield, Rose Café, Venice, CA, USA:  

Little Kenzo

Ahh, little Kenzo, full of pure joy,
What’s to become of this four-year-old boy?

A rocket scientist or a priest yet to be?
What lies in his future, the world will soon see.

There’s hope, I do glean, in his backpack of books,
and in the kind eyes of his mother’s sweet look.

With all of our children so gently embraced,
This surely would foster a true state of grace.


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Steve De Jarnatt, Food, Pico Boulevard, West Los Angeles, CA, USA:

A familiar face.  A face that feeds me. On the Westside now. But it had given sustenance mid-town for years. It all came back one day. Judy, Judy – Judy’s.

I’m a regular — tri-salad to go, meatloaf from heaven. Comfort. FOOD. And idle, always interesting chat. The Eames—ADD—locavores. Today I go by ruled by time, on an expedition to capture a moment. But she’s not in today far as I can see. I scour the faces. Families picking crusts like any other, the solitary ones who homestead a table for the day—the Gort glow of their MacBooks winking. Nothing to write home about. Or to Paris.

There she is — in the kitchen. Judy’s reddened mug. Overseeing something emerging from the oven? Crying. With someone else who’s crying. Through the portal square, framed beside The Specials. String hair down from the bun. Moving from the frame, off stage—unknown.


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Suki Kitchell Edwards, 8100 feet up Animas Mountain, Durango, CO, USA: 


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Dawna Kemper, Pat’s, Topanga Canyon, CA, USA:

Bright yellow bandana-print muumuu fringed bottom smocked bodice you keep pulling up to cover the bikini top with the cacophony of black and white letters pressed against each other. What do they say? (I can’t tell without staring.) Speaking Spanish to the waitress to your husband to God. Unruly waves of dull brown hair pushed free of your face by a wide stretchy black band bold in your pockmarked makeup-free beauty. Flip flop dangles and falls from your pink lacquered toes and stays off, foot dangling free naturally expressive the hands, too, painting words while you speak chopping smoothing waxing the air in front of you. You eyed my boyfriend’s plate when it arrived, then back to talking niños with your husband hands still moving pausing only when your own plate of eggs was delivered, latching hands with your man to offer up a whispered rezo a Dios.


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Bruce Moody, Café Inconnu, Crockett, CA, USA:

The Crimson Jumper

She walked a hundred miles in one week, once. From a disappointment in love. She didn’t know where she walked. Those old roads. Her head down. Just walked. Until love fortified itself in her, and dropped off its silver lamé of being duped. Now she sits guarded by her garments, which are unremarkable, which fit, which are comfortable and offer neither disguise nor invitation. She bends over her gadget. It does not mean anything to her, but it works for work. This is a strong woman, the air around her declares. Or a stronger woman. Stronger than before. She does not trumpet it. It is just in the air, like oxygen is in the air. Useful. Wiser. Benevolent.


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Lorie Adair: Steve’s Espresso Café, Tempe, AZ, USA:

He scratches behind an ear, cups his chin in a hand pale as a fish. He speaks to a friend; his mouth is thin, teeth the color of dishwater. Reaching into his pocket, he shifts to stand. At 6’ 3”, his thin legs poke from blue scruffs. He removes an I-Touch, rubs his fingers along the screen. He listens to his friend, grunts, holds the Touch 8 inches from his face. He sets it on the table, nods at his companion then lifts the screen again. He tilts it; a background beat of Soul. He stands, signals the barista. “Another to go.” He flips open courier bag, placing Touch in its pocket, angling laptop in its slot. Humidity like sex. Later, he reaches for the Touch, scrolls through the list, his forefinger sliding along glass. Caressing black space, he forgets the color of her eyes, the brand of lipstick she wears.


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Patrice Bilawka, Café Literati, West Los Angeles, CA, USA

Dusty Brogues

The Stranger strolled into the café and took his place across from me. Every day, same time—10 a.m. Just like me. He rarely looked around, but when he did he would sometimes cringe. His eyes were a blue, watery abyss. We never spoke. But I thought, “Maybe today… yes, maybe I should say hello.” Would I smile, or nonchalantly stammer a quick greeting? I would just do it. And whatever came out would be fine. I was looking at his shoes. Dusty brogues. Then I brought up my glance, and…the Stranger disappeared. He didn’t get up and leave, or switch to a different chair. I looked around to see if anyone else noticed. No. But he was gone. Do crazy people know they are going crazy? Do they keep things to themselves, like seeing people disappear? That was 7 weeks 2 days and 4 hours ago. The Stranger has not returned, and I have not seen anyone vanish since.


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Jon Hess, Café Literati, West Los Angeles, CA, USA:

"We close in five minutes," says the cricket behind the counter at Café Literati. Her fabulous gold hoop earrings sway, patting her neck. Her freckles are peach colored. "Well?" Her smile is nice -- her sadness deep. Her guitar is waiting for her in the trunk of her beat-up old Honda Civic. Chairs are put on tables. I'm the last customer. I wanted to tell her that I came here to write about her for my friend's blog "Paris Play." But then the seductive mystery of not knowing would be shattered and she would no longer be a stranger. Then I want to tell her to never stop singing, because her music heals her. The room is quiet for a moment. Minutes later, I step onto the LA street and imagine Paris.


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Richard Beban, Café André Breton, Paris, France: