The Vanishing French Bench / La disparition du banc française (revised 18h00 Paris time)

bench pierre jametThe Vanishing French Bench: If photography is a “Class War Weapon” — as the title of the exhibition of work by Andre Kertesz, Dora Maar, Willy Ronis and others running at the Centre Pompidou in Paris through February 4 indicates — then “Bench, Nice,” the above 1936 photo by Pierre Jamet should be plastered all over Paris and its bordering suburbs. In the past 10 years, perhaps as a measure to discourage the homeless from sleeping on them — why solve a problem when you can just make it disappear? — benches throughout Parisian area parks, streets, and Metro stations have been limned to one-person concrete chaises, (in the Metro) lines of pods interrupted by metal posts, or simply disappeared. Observing the traffic from a picturesque bridge over the Ourcq Basin this morning in the frontier suburb of Pantin, I found zero benches as far as my eyes could see on the right side, just a few on the left, and the runners outnumbered the sitters by 100 to zero. It’s a far cry from 2001, when the men sipping their first cafés (or petite blanc, white wine) of the day in the bars lining the rue Rouchechouart would regard me like a bizarre visitor from the future as I wheezed and panted up to Montmartre. Silver gelatin proof, purchased in 2011 with the support of Yves Rocher. Former collection Christian Bouqueret. Press Service, Centre Pompidou, Paris. © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/ Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP. © Pierre Jamet. — Paul Ben-Itzak