LOOKING AT NICE # 9

Walking man
Walking man

Observing the Old Nice in the mornings, you can’t help to feel a certain energy, emanating from how people move around after their affairs. The tourists usually get up late, and tend to leak through the narrow streets at a tantalizingly slow pace. Not so for the locals, who have a more determined attitude.

A step away from the Promenade
A step away from the Promenade

While I am writing this, I find myself in a big city – Warsaw, with  no concentrated center, typical of old human settlements. Warsaw has been completely destroyed during the WW II, and only a tiny part has been reconstructed. The rest got built loosely along the old canvas, but with modern planning, and total disregard for hitherto existing property rights. The streets are unnaturally  wide, almost out of proportion, and human figures appear insignificantly small. This type of urban planning was in part driven by the wish to make sure Soviet tanks could operate freely inside the city, and in part by the general trend of  “socialist realism”, which wanted to de-emphasize the role of the individual in a collectivist society.

Goal driven
Goal driven

As much as I’m normally not connected to modern art, I’ve long admired two sculptures: “The Unique Forms Of Continuity In Space” by Umberto Boccioni, and the “Walking Man” by Alberto Giacometti. They both stubbornly concentrate on the force of the individual, and as with most great works of art, represent a powerful synthesis of human life. Boccioni, in my eyes, stresses the drive, the energy underlying a hope for a humanity that was anxiously anticipating a better future on the wings of the industrial revolution.

Homo faber
Homo faber

Giacometti instead makes me perceive, to be concentrating on the concept of purposeful effort, as if he wanted to stress that the true role of man is to be Homo Faber – a creator and transformer. If you look carefully, there is a resemblance between the angle at which his figure walks forward, and the angle necessary to assume by the man pulling his trolley. This angle pushes forward our civilization.

“Walking Man” – James Taylor

Looking at Nice # 8

Porte Fausse
Porte Fausse

This passage dividing Old Nice from what used to be the bank of Paillon river is one of notable elements of the local architecture. It has been decorated with beautiful plates of marble, and you will find a small water fountain at the bottom of the stairs.

Meditating about the false door
Meditating about the false door

What is not very clear, is how this name actually originated. From above, the “door”, or rather a gate looks spacious and impressive, but once you pass through, you get swallowed up by the maze of tiny passages, not even meriting names of proper streets. Hence probably, the name, evoking a delusion.

“Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” – Randy Crawford

Looking at Nice # 7

A new day begins
A new day begins

I like observing how a day begins in small urban centers. There are usually some rituals: opening the window shades, watering the plants, walking the dogs, getting out to buy bread and newspapers, taking a cofee in a bar, etc.

Sun over the Colline du Chateau
Sun over the Colline du Chateau

In the Old Nice, all this takes place, as the sun rises above the Colline du Chateau – the hill  once crowned with a fortified castle, and today a civic park. Here, the mornings are imbued with sharp light, and there is not much car traffic, because the streets are cramped and parking is almost impossible. Most people move around on feet, bicycle or a scooter.

“Rise Up In The Morning” – Modern Jazz Quartet

Looking at Nice # 6

Working man
Working man

The cliche’ about the French, is that they don’t like to work much.  While you will always be able to find a nation where people work harder than elsewhere, perhaps the quantity is not everything – you also need to look at the effects. I’ve lived in four countries and have travelled a bit, thus have some ground for comparisons. In France you find a palpable sense of social ownership of the territory. France is considered common good, so the french tend to look after it with reasonable care.

Keeping common home clean
Keeping common home clean

This can be seen easily looking at how they maintain the infrastructures, how they care about the national heritage, how proudly they expose local treasures of nature, art, architecture. If Italy did the same, it could easily double its tourism revenues. Keeping the streets clean makes part of the same philosophy – it makes everybody live better and eventually translates into more wealth: more tourists and higher value of the houses. This makes part of a general social model of behaviour called cooperation. Cooperation level within societies is directly correlated to diffuse well being. But this might be a topic for another post.

“Work Song” – Nat Adderley & Wes Montgomery

Looking at Nice # 5

Tromp d'oeil
Tromp d’oeil

As you walk out from the old town onto the promenade, you’re bound to see this restaurant with the picture of an imaginary painter decorating the wall. This place has always intrigued me, and I’ve tried to make an interesting image in this scenario, trying different approaches and times of day.

Swinging palm trees
Swinging palm shadows

The difficulty seems to be, to combine the right position of the sun, so that the shadow of the palm tree intermingles with the painting on the wall, while finding some human interest among the restaurant’s tables.

Take three
Take three

I think,  I’ve shot this image at least on four different occasions, and there is always something that is leaving me with an impression that I could do better. Maybe it will be the next time.

“Take Five” – Dave Brubeck