Monday, April 27, 2015

Bridges. Have you seen them?

Bridges. They can be something that we use every day without a thought. However, for some, they are objects of exceptional beauty. That is obviously the case for Michael Saint James. He not only takes you to Paris and shows an array of beautiful bridges, most shot from various views and at different times of day to give contrast, but he also tells you about some of these wonderful structures.

A highlight for me was a bridge that was covered in locks. To discover that a movement of sorts began based on a scene from a romance novel that has led to locks adorning bridges in Paris with one in particular being a sort of Mecca for lovers was simply fascinating. You may never see bridges in quite the same way as Michael Saint James, but I believe you will certainly see an aspect of beauty brought out in something we might take for granted each day.

I discovered that actually leaving this book out on our coffee table drew people in who were visiting. They would thumb through it and get lost for several minutes as they toured these beautiful bridges.

Bridges of Paris is a large-format photography book with over 350 original color images which casts new illumination on the City of Light. The 37 bridges over the Seine River emerge as beautiful, historic destinations rather than unnoticed thoroughfares. The book features stunning portraits of each bridge as well as intimate riverside moments. Once you've experienced this river tour, you will never see Paris the same way again. Living as a Parisian for a year, author Michael Saint James left his American lifestyle and spent his days and nights capturing images from over, on, beside and under the bridges of Paris. With over 30 years experience as a photographer, educator and world traveler, Michael immersed himself in French culture to search out his authentic artist self. The result is a visual treasure to share with everyone.

And now a moment with the author and photographer...

While your book is mostly photographs, you still had to do a lot of historical and technical writing. How was this different than writing fiction?”
Historical writing has to be accurate and every word becomes critical. One historian says the bridge collapsed when a barge hit it and another historian says after the barge hit it. When or after? One word makes a difference. Why? I am a guest of Paris so I feel it was respectful to try to be a accurate a guest as possible when writing about it’s history.

But another challenge was to make my book entertaining. As I researched their history, I uncovered some fascinating bridge stories about goddesses, carousels, floods, kings and spies that I’ve included.

Did you become fluent in French?”
Actually I only speak a few words of French. I’m not very good at learning languages and having traveled to over 50 countries, mastery of a single foreign language, other than English, was always of little use. Rather, I have learned the international language of politeness, in French, politesse, demonstrating respect and tolerance for every culture and every human being. People around the world are more similar than different, we all have the same basic needs. I don’t need to know the local language when I visit a restaurant for a meal. They already know why I’m there. The vocabulary of politesse is simple: slow down and show respect and gratitude. Learn to say: how are you, please, thank you, hello, your food is delicious, your children are beautiful. It’s mostly forgotten in the States, but “please” really is the magic word.

How do the French people perceive Americans?”
The stereotype is that they are loud, fat, dine on extra large potions of cheap food and carry a gun. But when meeting a single American, the French are intrigued and genuinely enthusiastic to learn more about life in the States. I’ve found this to be true in most countries. When foreigners meet one-on-one, all stereotypes are broken. Americans often stereotype French waiters as being rude but I’ve never met one. I’ve found French waiters to be some of the most savvy, humorous people in France. Travel is a key tool in the quest for world peace. We need to build bridges instead of hiding behind walls.

What is your next project?”
Despite this book, I’m not the “bridge” guy looking for his next city or river to photograph. I love Paris and would love to discover another unique aspect of Paris to photograph. I’m also a book packager and book designer for others, so I’d be willing to consider packaging the ideas of others. But really, for me, I’ve always been passionate about the art of Vincent Van Gogh. I do have a fictional book idea I want to pursue on Van Gogh and the impact of his lovers on his art.

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