Art & Photography19th January 2015

The Power and Wonderment of Photography

Through the eye of a camera lens, wonderful places like Paris just come alive

by Natasha Hirst, Photographer and Deaf Life Writer

Some things in life can’t be expressed in words.  There are times when the best way to understand something is just to look, reflect and feel it’s impact and significance.

For me, travelling feeds my soul. Different places, sights, and cultures teach me about the wider world and also about myself. I connect to the world by seeing it and I have a passion for documenting that through photography. I’ve never been afraid of stepping outside of my comfort zone but that doesn’t mean that travelling as a Deaf person is anxiety-free. Even in countries where English is widely spoken, language is a barrier. Ordering food, buying tickets and asking for directions can be problematic. Not so different from being at home then!

I was lucky enough to be the recipient of a free weekend in Paris, so armed with my camera, and a Polish friend who speaks no French, I hit the road. Here’s what we got up to.

As we sleepily stepped off the early morning Eurostar, a charming Latvian taxi driver whisked us off to the Hotel Baltimore, which included navigating the very scary roundabout circling the famous Arc de Triomph.

The hotel is a 10 minute walk from Trocadéro where you have a full view of the magnificent Eiffel Tower.At night the tower is lit up and twinkles from head to toe every hour for ten minutes. It’s no less impressive by day. Nearby, there are crepe stands and hot dog stalls and patisseries full of delicious baguettes and pastries. These are your cheapest options for food, the restaurants can be pricey.

It takes some getting your head around but once you’ve understood how it works, the Paris Metro is great. It’s very quick, easier than the London Underground (in my opinion) and good value for money. Like other old subway systems though, it isn’t accessible for people with mobility impairments. Our first task was to find our way to Montmartre for our evening’s entertainment at the Moulin Rouge.  I usually find musicals too dull because I can’t hear them but the Moulin Rouge is visually stunning, with very talented dancers, performers and acrobats and a fantastic retro theatre vibe that makes for a great night out.

The next day we joined the Hidden Secrets of Paris walking tour, led by the eternally cheerful and knowledgeable Arthur, who shared his favourite parts of Paris with us, including shortcuts through little arcades that reminded me of Cardiff.

We started in Place de la Concorde, learning how the Luxor Obelisk was gifted to France by Egypt, and how the extravagant Louis XVI met his bloody fate there in 1793 after the French Revolution brought down the Monarchy. I only caught bits of what was said despite Arthur’s best efforts to face me when speaking, but it was still well worth it to explore the side of Paris I wouldn’t know about otherwise. In the safety of the group I was able to gaze like a fool at the stunning architecture and point my camera in every direction to capture sculptures, fountains, buildings and street art. When on your travels don’t forget to look up! You see such interesting things above street level.

We then went on to explore more of Paris on our own, making use of the Lonely Planet guidebook.  There is so much to see and we had so little time but we managed to fit in Sacré Coeur, which exercised our leg muscles as we walked over 200 steps to the top of the hill; the Eiffel Tower, which tested our head for heights; relaxed in Jardin du Luxembourg eating sorbet by the French Senate; and enjoyed the stunningly beautiful sights at the Palace of Versailles.  We wandered the streets and along the river for miles and miles, watched newly-weds have their photoshoots at Paris landmarks, enjoyed the energetic street performers, collected conkers and sat on numerous benches, soaking up the atmosphere and the sights of a balmy autumn in Paris.

Article by Natasha Hirst, Photographer and Deaf Life Writer

posted in Entertainment / Art & Photography

19th January 2015