No love lost

Thursday, April 28th, 2016
  • Paris love locks

    Love locks are supposed to be sweet romantic gestures, writing lovers’ names on a padlock, locking it to a bridge, then throwing the key into the river below so that the love can never be unlocked. But let’s be honest, they’re ugly, and many Parisians now consider them an act of vandalism, and with good reason.

    Last year city authorities removed 45 tonnes of ‘love locks’ from the famous Pont des Arts, after a part of the historic bridge over the Seine River collapsed due to the wight of the locks. The cost of the cleanup was, of course, paid for by Parisian taxpayers, many of whom consider the locks to be an eyesore.

    There are various different stories and theories about the beginnings of the Lovelocks, but only in recent years has the practice of hanging love locks on bridges and monuments become noticeably popular. Love locks on Pont des Arts began appearing in 2008 before slowly spreading to other bridges and landmarks across the city that is widely regarded as one of the most romantic destinations in the world. However, love locks can be found across the globe. Indeed, I first encountered them in South Korea when I was doing 366 Pictures in 2012!

    Local authorities are now installing methods and devices in an attempt to thwart lovers looking to lock their love to the Pont des Arts, but it seems this is doing little to deter them from simply placing their locks somewhere else.

    I took today’s picture at Le Pont Neuf which is the oldest bridge in Paris (despite the fact that the name means ‘New Bridge’). As I took the shot an old woman wearing a headscarf came up to me and showed me a box of padlocks she was selling. She didn’t speak and instead just pointed at a handwritten sign that simply indicated the price; Five Euros.

    I didn’t buy one, nor did anyone else while I was there. However to put the problem into context, take a look at this very same location exactly two years ago using Google Street view . You’ll see there were only a handful of locks back in 2014. Just a year later the difference is striking, and today the problem is out of control.

    While some (mostly tourists) bemoan the removal of the love locks, complaining that this is a loved Parisian tradition, it’s hard to make such a claim in a city that has no shortage of history. The Pont des Arts was built under the reign of Napoleon I, and the Le Pont Neuf was opened by Henri IV in 1607. Love locks started appearing just eight years ago. They’re a fad, so maybe the solution to the love lock problem won’t come from the local authorities but instead from the passing of time and the onward march of fashion in this, the most fashionable city of them all.

    Stand in this location using Google streetview. Also using streetview, go back and look at the Pont des Arts in 2009. You’ll be surprised to see no love locks, then compare that with 2014.