The Photo Booths of Paris

Photo booths are just great, aren't they? I remember cramping inside the one at Liverpool Street with my chums aged 13 on our first trip to London, my face awkwardly large and out of proportion in the picture due to being sat on someone's lap. My nanny showed me a great photo booth picture of her and my Grandad pulling different silly faces in each frame, young and fresh-looking during the 1950's. In short, they're just cool aren't they? Made that much cooler by everyone's favourite Parisian outcast, Amelie

I heard on the grapevine that the books of discarded photo booth pictures that appear in the film are the prized collection of a real-life Nico, who became addicted to furthering his eccentric collection after being gifted two empty photo albums. The director then saw his books and 'voila!' Amelie's story was set on its course.

After seeing the simply dreamy posts from The Tea Drinking English Rose's honeymoon trip to Paris, I knew I had to hunt down some photo booths myself. After we ran out of time to see the famous Cafe des Deux Moulins, we had to channel Amelie somehow! In fact, it turns out my friend's apartment was on Rue Moffetard, which is where Amelie returns the memory tin to Bretodo. We hadn't realised the whole time! A definite 'hold-head-in-hands' moment...

After doing some research, I discovered that there has been a recent resurgence of the photo booth. In fact, they're popping up all over Europe, especially in Paris. Here you can find the iconic 'Fotoautomat' nestled in train stations, shopping centres and galleries. Not the horrible, plastic 'driving license' boxes we get here, but real, shiny, velvet curtained photo booths. What a treat.

The first photo booth we set out to find was located in an art gallery, which was... closed on the only day we chose to visit. #FotoFail. We were not to be beaten. A little metro ride and a classic game of 'follow the Frenchman, he looks like he knows where he's going' later, we arrived at the Palais de Tokyo. An easy 3 euros later we were in, planning our poses and giggling furiously as the lights flashed. We were definitely not cool enough for the place we were in!

If you'd like to go on a Parisian photo booth hunt too, have a look at this and this. It details all the booth locations - just make sure your pockets are full of euro coins!

Looking for a bit of culture that extended beyond the numerous baguettes and boursin we'd eaten, we decided to go into the Palais de Tokyo itself, a contemporary art gallery with the most comprehensive and overwhelming magazine shop I have ever been to. With ID, our entrance cost around 6 euros, but we spent a good two hours wandering around the exhibitions so it was definitely worth it.

I often feel perplexed or strangely angry when it comes to viewing contemporary art. Sometimes I think the artist is having a big old laugh at us trying to guess what his floating basketball could symbolically represent, whilst he rolls around on his bed of cash. It's true, there was some of that in the Palais de Tokyo, but mostly I was bowled over by how immersive the experience was.

The Jesper Just exhibition was beautifully delicate and poignant in equal measure.  It was more of an experience than a observation, as you walk through a pitch black warehouse seeking video and sound, individual pieces in and of themselves but knitting together into an exploration of absence and loss. 

Patrick Neu also featured at the Palais, showcasing some of the most intricate and detailed examples of modern art I've ever seen. Think less poster paint, more etchings of famous artwork onto the insides of wine glasses. It was beyond comprehension and the time and effort that goes into each piece was totally mind blowing.

The last exhibition we saw has since stuck in my mind and I've seen it's image reappear in my brain during that odd space between sleep and consciousness numerous times. In fact, that's the best way I can think to describe it. Or, as my friend Cati said, 'it's like we're in a room at the Department of Mysteries'. Have a look below to see why... 

Another pitch black room, except this one had giant, God-like figures of men striding around the walls, lighting ever so slightly a mountainous structure in the middle of the room, except the mountain was made of foam. Sound weird? It gets weirder.

Genuinely believing I'd entered some form of purgatory, I was keen to get on out of there. But how? Climbing in a gondola and boating your way out of the gallery, of course. I still can't get my head around how it all worked, seeing as we were on the second floor. Out of the dark and into the light, my gallant gondolier wove our little boat out of the exhibition. It felt weird, but also kind of cool. Was that how I was meant to feel? Who knows...

We stepped out of our boat and blinked at each other a lot, exchanging phrases such as 'that was odd', 'did you get good photos?' and 'my bag is soaked'. Good times had by all.

Of course, I couldn't leave you without the simply incroyable magazine shop. Swoon. If only I hadn't filled my suitcase with wine already...

Do you know of any good photo booths this side of the channel? I'd love to visit more!

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