|Fibre-optic cable layers, France [Alamy image ref. ACWKBP]|
Street photography is normally difficult in France… the French are rather reserved and have stringent laws of privacy on their side as frequently observed – somewhat after the fact – when politicians and public figures have their misdemeanors finally reported officially to or leaked by the press and other media.
Surprisingly, I find that people engaged in “traditional” trades on the land such as farmers and woodsmen often stop what they are doing and like to have a chat. Maybe it is cautious curiosity as to why a photographer is focusing on them, rather than wanting an excuse for a break, that stops them in their tracks, but I always extend my arm well in advance and before they do as a signal of friendship, and to disarm any potential verbal attack or questioning.
With the above situation, when a new system of fiber-optic cabling was being laid throughout the town where I live, I broke the ice by inquiring – with a lucky guess – the length of cable on the drum. I was thankfully not too far-off, but received a friendly laugh – like the joke was on me – because I tried to re-estimate an “English mile” rather than meters. The drum in fact held 1,400 meters of Alcatel cable which the two men quickly but carefully unrolled into loose “figure-of-eight” coils which they made around a couple of flimsy folding frames… from which is was equally deftly uncoiled when pulled invisibly through the underground conduit system a previous telephone company provided.
The two workers didn’t talk much (which was strange for telecommunications engineers!) but perhaps the repetitive nature of their work made it necessary to concentrate more… so I tried to stay out of their way with just a few seemingly casual shots taken from close-up with a 24mm lens, but only after I had made a series of images taken from a window about 20 feet above pavement level. Although the aerial images showed the figure-of-eight coil of cable much more graphically, the shot shown here included the large drum of cable and a good stretch of the length of the street it was to be laid under.
This image was used as an 1/8th page “spot” size in a monthly trade magazine with a 150,000 print-run in the UK for quite a good fee under my “a la Poste” pseudonym.