Paris has displayed a string of playful portraits of the lives of "ordinary Parisians" on advertising billboards across the city. The public exhibition has delighted tourists but left Parisians themselves somewhat bemused.
Paris has displayed a string of portraits of the lives of “ordinary Parisians” on advertising billboards across the city, using sketches that have delighted tourists but left locals somewhat bemused.
“The idea is to offer something free for the summer on billboards that would otherwise be used for advertising or public service messages,” city hall spokesman Lionel Bordeaux told FRANCE 24.
“We wanted to give passers-by something to smile about, to show tourists that Parisians can laugh at themselves.”
And while the images drawn of Parisian life – playing on themes from love to philosophy, eating out and public transport – reflect a certain French stereotype, locals who spoke to FRANCE 24 were fairly dismissive.
“I suppose they are nice to look at,” said father-of-two Sylvain, with wife Elsa and his children for a day out in central Paris. “But they only seem to show a certain side of life. The people in the sketches look young, good looking, white and rich. This is not true of all Parisians.”
His wife Elsa described the images and the humour as “Bobo” – a slightly derogatory term [a play on “Bourgeois-Bohème”, meaning "rich and bohemian"] for the young and trendy. “But tourists will like it, I think,” she added.
At Saint-Germain-des-Près in the city’s Latin Quarter, PhD student Elsa (Parisians don’t like giving family names to reporters) shrugged at a picture of a young woman who leans off her balcony to gaze at the Eiffel Tower.
“It doesn’t reflect my life,” she said. “I suppose there are Parisians who live like this, and that’s what the tourists want to see. And if these pictures make them happy, then why not?”
Some tourists are certainly happy to see the city’s daily life so attractively portrayed.
Lisa Cody, a 50-year-old visitor from Australia, said she had been looking out for the pictures as she strolled through Paris.
“The image I had in my mind about Paris before coming here was of wealthy, attractive people in beautiful apartments,” she said. “It fits exactly with my expectations, and it’s nice of them to have translated the captions into English.”
Nick Henderson, from Oklahoma, USA, with wife Melissa, stopped at one billboard to have a look.
“I do get it,” he said. “They’re trying to show a Parisian stereotype and I suppose the pictures are nice and funny. But I’m blown away by this beautiful city and the buildings around me. So it’s difficult to give my attention to billboards.”
The exhibition runs until August 28. See slideshow below for a map of locations.
A young man lies about his location as he waits for a metro. (Picture courtesy of Paris City Hall)
An elderly lady uses youthful text-messaging slang. (Picture courtesy of Paris City Hall)
The poster celebrates Parisians' love for terrace cafés - and occasional good weather.(Picture courtesy of Paris City Hall)
A young woman shows off her new apartment and its fantastic view. (Picture courtesy of Paris City Hall)
Australian Lisa Cody said the pictures conjured up the precise image she had of Paris. (Photo: Tony Todd)
Sylvain and Elsa said the pictures, while nice, were not representative of all Parisians' experience. In this poster, a young woman on a flower-bedecked balcony says she has no need for the countryside. (Photo: Tony Todd)
The exhibition is on billboards usually reserved for advertising, set around three main locations in central Paris. For more information and an interactive map (in English) visit www.lesparisiens.paris.fr
Date created : 2013-08-09