Tag Archives: Paris

The City of Locks?

One of our supporters lamented on our Facebook page that she was afraid Paris would become known as the City of Locks. As the influx of “love lockers” increases daily, you have to wonder if her fears could be justified.

The City of Light Locks

It would be plenty ironic if that were to come to pass, since France’s national holiday celebrates the storming of the Bastille—a prison. Liberté, or liberty, is the first word in the country’s motto—Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité—and it is emblazoned on many public buildings around Paris. Liberty is really important to the French, who lived under kings and dictators for far too many centuries.

“Love is not a cage!” raged Parisian Fabien T., when asked about “love locks.” “It’s not a prison! This symbol is terrible for love!”

“Love should be free,” agreed Yann L. “It’s wrong to try to lock someone to you. That’s possession. Love cannot grow that way.”

Agnès C. Poirier talked about the French philosophy of love in her op-ed about “love locks” in the New York Times (“An Affront to Love, French-Style,” 18 August 2012). “To love truly is to want the other free…Love is not about possession or property. Love is no prison where two people are each other’s slaves.” She writes of French philosopher Alain Badiou’s book, In Praise of Love, in which he tells us risk is a part of love. “There is no safe, everlasting love,” Poirier writes. “The idea that you can lock two people’s love once and for all, and toss the key, is a puerile fantasy.”

While Paris is known as the City of Love throughout the world, its other moniker, the City of Light—a place of enlightenment—is even more highly prized by the locals. Intellect, education and philosophy reign supreme, and love as a concept is deeply intellectualized, dissected, discussed at length over drinks at the café. Ask most Parisians how they feel about “love locks” and you’ll hear words like “barbaric” and “oppressive,” but even more frequently, “unenlightened.” As a symbol of love, a lock is an epic fail for Parisians: it neither illustrates the free expression of passion, nor matches up to the lofty ideal of l’amour. In other words: it’s just plain wrong.

And now, this affront to the Parisian way of thinking is installed on nearly every bridge on their home turf, flying in the face of everything they hold dear: not just the historic bridges they cherish, but the very idea of what love means.

There’s a reason diplomats spend a good deal of time researching local customs and beliefs before they visit a foreign country. One misstep could start a war. Now there are over 700,000 missteps invading Paris’s bridges, and one could argue that’s a huge declaration of war on a city where each lock is a tiny missal aimed at the heart of their culture, their heritage and their beliefs.
—Lisa Anselmo

Read more about what Parisians are saying about the locks taking over their city.

A Bridge Too Far

photo-60I hadn’t been paying attention to the bridges in the center of the city; I was too busy building a life in the 11th arrondissement. Then in November, I saw what had become of the Pont de l’Archevêché, a tiny bridge that connects Notre Dame with Quai de Montebello. In what seemed like mere months, it had been inundated by an infestation of locks, a dense metallic clump of “love,” that crept over the side of the bridge like a fungus. And the size of some locks was shocking—huge, some up to four inches across (10cm). Heavy bike locks had been attached to the bridge, seemingly to create an additional surface for hanging more locks since all the available meshing was used up. Graffiti had sprouted on the stone wall where locks were unable to be attached. People had taken to scratching messages in the paint on the railing. This wasn’t love. It felt like madness, like an invading army had seized the bridge. I’d known the Pont des Arts was falling prey to this mania, but now this bridge? I became like a crazy person. This was a bridge too far.

I dashed off a post on my blog, My (Part-time) Paris Life, which went viral, lighting a fire under my friend Lisa—and the rest is history. No Love Locks was born.

Uh, it's Pont de l'Archevêche last I checked folks.
Um, what now? It’s Pont de l’Archevêche last I checked, folks. (Google)

We’ve since discovered that Pont de l’Archevêché is known as “Lovelock Bridge”—say what?—and is touted as such by tour guides and Google maps alike. That’s hair-pulling stuff. Were Lisa and I the only ones who thought this was a bad idea?

Seems not. Our followers are increasing faster than we would have imagined, and we’ve already been tweeted and re-tweeted, blogged and re-blogged just a few weeks into our project. Now, the press is taking notice. Our petition (ici en français), launched on 9 March, has garnered more than 1,000 signatures in just over five days. In our latest effort, we’ve sent an open letter to the candidates for the March municipal elections in Paris, asking them for their position on the issue. We await their responses.

It’s official: We’re a movement. For those not convinced, or on the fence, stay with us; what you will see in coming posts may surprise you—and change your mind. We’re not kooks or love-haters; we’re reasonable human beings who want to protect historic structures—and the beauty of our cities—from what’s sadly become rampant vandalism. Join us, will you? Sign our petition today.
—Lisa Anselmo

Here, a few photos of what turned Les Deux Lisas into accidental activists:

Whoa, folks. Give it a rest, huh?
Whoa, folks. Give it a rest, huh?
Oh, come on now. That's a tad too far.
Oh, come on now. A bicycle lock? Really?
Well, it was a pretty view…once. Locks creeping over the side like fungus.

Sign Our Petition to Ban ‘Love Locks!’ Save the Historic Bridges of Paris

In 2008, “love locks” began to appear on the historic Pont des Arts in Paris, France. Since then, this trend has spread to other bridges in Paris, presenting a mounting problem of costly maintenance, ecological damage, security issues, and the degradation of cherished historic structures. This is not love. The time has come to enact a ban on “love locks” and restore our bridges to their original beauty and purpose.

Help us stop “love locks!” Sign and share our petition on change.org and within your social network, available in English and French.

We will be posting translations to other languages on this blog, for those who need them. Stay tuned.

It doesn’t matter if you live in Paris or elsewhere, and you don’t have to be French to sign. We want the Paris city government to know that Parisians and visitors alike care deeply about this issue! Join us!


petish cropped

Say It, Don’t Spray It

DSC_0037One of the most odious side effects of the Love Locks is the graffiti that has begun to appear on the bridges—the surrounding stone walls, the railings, and even on the wall of locks themselves. While graffiti artists, like Banksy, arguably have a solid place in the world of art, in the case of the Pont des Arts (and other bridges), this graffiti is less about individual artistic expression and more about a mob out of control. It’s as if the very presence of the locks has breached an invisible boundary of social restraint and respect, of human decency, and has released the feeding frenzy. We are at a critical tipping point between dignity and savagery, like William Golding’s boys in Lord of the Flies who, once they put that pig’s head on a stick, surrendered to their baser selves.

Removing graffiti from stone is an expensive proposition. Is the Pont Neuf, Paris’s oldest bridge (1578), safe?

That the locks seem to have beget the graffiti is proof that the act of putting a lock on a public structure is mentally akin to vandalism. Proof, too, that the locks need to be treated as a nuisance, and regulated. Even those pro-lock can easily see how the graffiti defaces and disfigures the bridges, and in turn the entire center of Paris. What were once elegant and stately structures, now look more like train trestles in an abandoned section of Detroit, Michigan, USA—where these are signs of a city in decline. Is this also true of Paris?

Municipally-funded public spaces belong to everyone, but they are a privilege for all, not a right of the individual, and if we permit their degradation, we risk degrading ourselves. When communal structures are well cared for, it sends a message of wellbeing and prosperity to the collective subconscious. The negative visual impact that these ravaged bridges will have on the psyches of the citizens—already struggling in an economic recession—will take a generation to erase, even after the locks are gone. —Lisa Anselmo

The wall of locks create the perfect solid surface for graffiti. You can make out the letters R-A-T-R and some others sprayed over top the locks. It took someone a significant amount of time to do this. That this is is able to happen unchecked—so close to police headquarters—is bewildering. How bad does it have to get before the government takes action?
The wall of locks create the perfect solid surface for graffiti. You can make out the letters R-A-T-R and some others sprayed over top the locks. It took someone a significant amount of time to do this. That this is is able to happen unchecked—so close to police headquarters—is bewildering. How bad does it have to get before the government takes action?


Love Hurts

Love can feel wonderful. But we also know too well the pain of love. What begins as deep and meaningful, can sometimes turn ugly and destructive. Just ask the Pont des Arts.

2010: Inspired, I snapped this image of the tokens dotting the barrier. ©Lisa Anselmo

In 2008, inscribed locks started to appear on the wire meshing of the Pont des Arts in Paris, also known as the Passerelle des Arts, which spans the Seine between the Institut de France and the Louvre. This elegant pedestrian bridge—originally commissioned by Napoleon I in 1802—has become a symbol for lovers who have taken to fastening Love Locks to her sides.

Back when you could see through the delicate siding. ©Lisa Anselmo

At first, there were just a few locks—sweet, touching tokens that some could argue added to the beauty of the bridge. Even I was moved to snap some photos of the phenomenon back then (seen here), and in 2011, considered putting my own lock on the bridge to honor my mother who died of breast cancer that year.

I didn’t hang that lock in the end, and I’m glad. Today, the bridge barely resembles her former, glorious self. What was once poetry has become destruction. Love is turning ugly for the Pont des Arts. It’s starting to break her down, swallow her whole. She is being dominated, desecrated. In fact, it’s not love anymore, it’s pain. —Lisa Anselmo

Damage from the weight of your love.
A protective barrier installed around a damaged section of the bridge. When love turns ugly.