Will the real Eiffel Tower Please Stand Up?

October 5, 2010 27 Comments »

Which one is the original?

Everyone around me was taking pictures of the Eiffel Tower, but I was distracted by the thousands of other Eiffel Towers and the touts carrying them. From the first moment I went to the Eiffel Tower, I seemed to be more fascinated by the culture around the tower rather than the tower itself.

There are touts everywhere peddling their touristy trinkets; it’s a fact of travel. I’ve learned to ignore them and brush them off, but this time I decided to really try to look deeper at the tout culture through photography.

Men of all ages (never women) were carrying mini Eiffel Towers around the grounds flashing the shiny objects appealing to the children while enticing with their volume discounts. Much to the parent’s dismay, shiny objects seem to capture the interest of children and therefore the question “Can I have one????” was overheard many times as I walked around the park near the Eiffel Tower.

There were different selling techniques, some brought out a square clothe and placed it on the ground like a table clothe and set up the shiny mini towers in an orderly fashion from big to small, and from silver to gold. Some simply had all of the mini towers on a big metal ‘ring’ and would dangle them around and gain attention by the sound of clinking cheap metal floating through the air. Some simply stood in one place and called out their volume price discounts. And some went directly up to people like door-to-door salesmen selling Encyclopedias.

I watched as kids walked away with their shiny new objects satiated for a few moments before wanting something else. I saw the mini towers break and kids cry not understanding that 1 Euro meant no guarantees and certainly no returns or exchanges.

Finally, I watched as the mini tower touts scattered in all different directions like a herd of elk being chased by a lion when the police descended upon the Trocadero.

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