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Locals shrug, tourists revel in rosy image of Paris life

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.

“Les Parisiens” features 48 different comic sketches by artist Kanako in 1,000 locations around the city – see slide-show below.

“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.

Indifferent shrug

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.

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