|La Roche Posay, France. [Alamy image ref. AHE43K]|
On many occasions when I have been forced to wait for five minutes or more to progress through a break in the traffic at this narrow gateway in the nearby spa town of La Roche Posay in the Vienne I didn’t think to take a “topical” picture of what it is like to drive, live and shop on top of a “bottleneck”. When I decided to tackle such an angle to illustrate modern traffic conditions in a typical French town with narrow streets in it’s “old quarter” it was an exceptionally quiet day!
More than thirty years ago when I first visited La Roche Posay – I think it must have been before the by-pass had been constructed – I remember a string of large lorries pumping fumes from their exhausts as they waited and waited for a signal from a gendarme to progress with caution through the low, narrow arch of the ancient gateway… and then on to a safer passing and crossing point over the river Creuse a few hundred meters distant. Many towns like this were planned and evolved with defence in mind… horses and carts being the only form of transportation many centuries ago.
Formally recognized as being of public utility in 1869, La Roche Posay became the first spa in Europe exclusively dedicated to skin disorders. The dermatological tradition at La Roche Posay spans five centuries and is based upon Selenium-rich spring water plus a unique store of knowledge and experience recognized the world over. And Napoleon, then General Bonaparte, on his return from Egypt at the beginning of the 19th century, had a thermal hospital built there to treat his soldiers’ skin diseases. Perhaps he marched from the thermal spring to Paris through this arch with his troops… than would have made an impressive photograph… had the camera been invented then!
So a lot has happened here and generations have passed through the portals… but the most I had to show for it on this visit was a couple of cars and cyclists… not even the usual milling crowds window-shopping with others sitting at café tables watching the world go by. In what context this image was used I have no idea… others of mine showing the famous spa buildings have been used several times around the world (although mostly for Polish and Russian publications). Maybe it was used alongside a spa image from another photographer? However, it was my second sale through Alamy and actually came within a couple of days of after my very first sale there… so I regarded the image subject as a gateway to success!
Licensed as Rights Managed by Alamy for reproduction in a weekly consumer magazine in the UK with a 500,000 print-run under my “a la France” pseudonym.