France, Photo Documentaries

Will the real Eiffel Tower Please Stand Up?

27 Comments 05 October 2010

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.

Your Comments

27 Comments so far

  1. Doug Mack says:

    I love this–so much more interesting than yet another set of pics of the tower itself. Nice observations about the different techniques, too. When I was at Trocadero, I talked to one of these guys (it was a rainy day and business was slow, so he was happy to chat). He was from Senegal and had some interesting stories.

  2. Stephen says:

    Cool post and original too. Sometimes I get distracted by what’s going on around me when I’m at a famous site. When I was at the pyramids at Giza, I kept getting distracted by all the other tourists and the touts too.

    • admin says:

      I think it’s great to get distracted…it’s hard not too! When I”m at famous sites I love to watch the other tourists interacting with the site as much as I like to see the site myself! I always turn around and take a photo of the tourists taking photos…just to remind myself that I”m not alone.

  3. Mark Tisdale says:

    Great series! Very different take on the tower. The peddlers I encountered there in January were not as persistent as the ones I dealt with in Rome several winters before. The ones there tended to offer a little of everything from trinkets to roses, to taking your picture in front of X attraction. And when it rained, they showed up with umbrellas to! I give them credit for being enterprising folks wherever you find them.

  4. Kyle says:

    None of those is the right one. The right one is in Vegas :)

  5. Kayling05 says:

    Most of the little towers I bought there 2 years ago are still kickin around somewhere, intact. The keychain one did break though. But the other (slightly larger) ones survived the trip back and ended up as souvenirs to good friends and my mom and myself of course.

  6. Very clever and original. I must have walked right past you; seems we were there at pretty much the same time, although I prefer seeing the tower at night []

    • admin says:

      Great night pics. I actually missed the night light show and was sort of happy about it. I’m not a big fan of light shows – but you’ve done a great job of capturing it!

  7. Great pictures and love the unique perspective on the trinket sellers at every major tourist destination. I was wondering how you got the lighting in your shots especially the last one. Are they HDR or do you some kind of software to bring out the shadows? They look great. Keep up the good work.

    • admin says:

      They aren’t HDR – but it’s a plug-in I use to create more of that effect. Topaz Labs is the company that makes it.
      Thanks for stopping by the site and providing your feedback – much appreciated! Plus – maybe I should start a whole book on the touts from around the world! They don’t always like to be photographed – so it’s a bit sketchy to get their photograph at times!

      • Cool. Thanks for the info. Looks cool and adds a little extra to your already great photography. That would be a fun book. Probably lot’s of running touts with merchandise dangling precariously or in sheets gathered at the edges etc;-)

  8. Thought I’d share a shot I took in 2007 of the tower at night for Jerry and anyone else who enjoys pictures of it at night. This one is a little different angle than most people choose;-)
    Didn’t get any day shots like yours, but they are on my list for next time. Thanks for sharing and for the inspiration.

    • admin says:

      Love it! I tried to do something similar – but without a tripod it was nearly impossible!

      • I’d love to see it. Can you post a link? I actually didn’t have a tripod either at the time. I just set my SLR lying on the ground face up and hope for the best. I was surprised and pleased with the result.

  9. Gray says:

    Great angle for a post! Let’s face it, the touts and souvenirs are definitely a part of the travel experience. Cool photos, btw.

  10. jessiev says:

    WHAT fun, and unique viewpoint!

  11. Sherry: Your photos are getting more stunning by the minute!

  12. Mark H says:

    But did you buy one…

    • admin says:

      Ha! Good question Mark! No, I didn’t buy one – no room in my backpack! However – I must admit – I had to pay one Euro to photograph them all together with the real Eiffel Tower in the background (the first picture). Ah…the price of journalism!

  13. Vibeke says:

    NICE! I adore your approach – this is what travel journalism should aspire to!

    • admin says:

      Thanks! I guess I just get tired of doing the same old thing. I really enjoy trying to capture the things that we choose not to see when traveling. Hope you come back and visit again!

  14. Earl says:

    I love where this post ended up going!

    And when I looked back at that first photo, it’s as if the real one is just a larger trinket and the mini-towers had somehow reduced its greatness down to their level!

  15. VERY creative thinking and photographing. I really need to do more out of the box filming and photography like this. I can barely enjoy my trips around France anymore because I’m always filming for my blog so I see the world through a viewfinder now. I lose so much of the life happening around me that way. Great pics! Cynthia in the French Alps

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Sherry traveling the world

I'm Sherry, a corporate cube dweller turned nomadic traveler. I travel to off-the-beaten-path destinations to bring you unique travel experiences and photography. But it's not just about travel, it's also about life experiences of a middle age wanderer.
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