Vêtements Fait l’Homme 24/06/2010Posted by brendan in Bienvenue à la Semaine de Fonctionnement, La Vie en Paris.
Tags: fashion, france, gallery opening, journalism, magnum gallery, magnum photo, paris
“Can you do me a favor,” Robin asked. “Can you take off your jacket?”
Magnum Photo was throwing a gallery opening deep in the bowels of the upscale Saint-Germain district. Museum curators, millionaire collectors and world-renowned photographers were pressed shoulder to shoulder clutching their glasses and chattering about matters of the art world. The prints on display were imprisoned behind glass, reflecting the florescent lighting. Everything had a last minute feel to it, except for the carefully manicured denizens of the upper-crust who were so busy indulging in conversation that you had to physically part them in order to pass.
Robin had offered to introduce me to the bureau chief of Paris’ Magnum offices, the son of his employer. The problem was that under my coat I wore a hooded sweatshirt. No, Robin assured me, the problem is your shoes.
But in the end the problem was a gregarious socialite who propelled himself across the street on a stream of hot air to steal away the bureau chief. We commiserated over another free glass of champagne before calling it a night.
The freshly painted gallery stored a collection of prints which would sell for small fortunes, neatly catalogued in a custom built shelving unit at the rear of what looked less like an exhibition space and more like a car dealership. Men wore suits and leather jackets unless they were photographers or recognized eccentrics. Women wore jewelry and dresses and carried leather bags. People noticed us and went flipping through their mental rolodexes to determine if we were somebodies.
It’s one thing to feel out of place in a high-end gallery in a high-end neighborhood. Now I began to notice the eyes of others becoming suspicious. Four out of five passing cars would become an audience, peering at me through the night. Neighbors would always be startled when they chanced across me. How threatening can someone be holding a stained coffee cup? One woman from the next building began walking her dog in the middle of the street rather then share the sidewalk.
No one on the métro owns a pair of pants with frayed cuffs. Chuck Taylors are popular but the white rubber toes gleam like salt plains. T-shirts aren’t blighted by paint splotches, worn collars or faded emblems. Out in La Courneuve girls are wearing sweat-pants and pushing babies down the street but in the city proper I look a little ragged.
But no one ever takes me for a tourist.