Navyo shows a small selection of images captured in the manner of the flâneur, the perfect mood for taking stunning photos ‘on the go’.
Flânerie, “that aimless Parisian compromise between laziness and activity,” as wrote Edmund White.
It seems that my travels around Europe have found their niche. How appropriate that I discovered this while in Paris.
According to Lauren Elkin, the flâneur is a 19th-century phenomenon, a figure of privilege and leisure, with the time and money to amble around the city at will. He is both part of and separate from the urban spectacle, both actor and observer.
Having meandered the Marais and other districts of Paris lately, I can attest that my position is both involved and aloof. This dual perspective is necessary for creating the prose that will translate the experience for the reader. The ability to get inside of life and yet be witness to it is, to those familiar with meditation, a spiritual approach. Applying this to the self is one thing, but applying it to the world around us is another matter entirely.
To do this, to be a flâneur formidable, I have to become empty and allow myself to wander without agenda, without direction. I have to allow life to take me, allow the city to take me. It’s from this space that experience arises and I become the actor and the observer, engaging yet witnessing.
Flânerie is the art of wandering aimlessly, being available to what happens – and then writing about it.
But it’s not restricted to Paris. I first experienced this in Rome, where I would step out my front door and say, “Rome, take me.” This attitude of let-go, of being a channel for physical space, for the spirit of a city to direct my movements became my meditation. I would wander not aimlessly in the purposeless sense, but in the sense of being guided.
It’s this space “between laziness and activity,” that opens one up to experience life in a way that a mind filled with schedules and agendas does not. I found myself to be much more present, more available to life and the people around me, more fine-tuned, more connected.
So now when I walk around a city, even if I have a plan of visiting a certain museum, I adopt the state of the flâneur – the actor and the observer. It’s a wonderful, relaxed feeling and allows me to be in the world, but not of it.
And I don’t restrict myself to writing about it. Recording the moments of flânerie in the photographic image makes for exceptional subject matter. There are shots that would have taken so much to stage that have simply appeared before my eyes. And then they are gone. It’s this ephemeral quality of the flâneur that contains the spiritual practice, the ability to be in the moment, engaged, connected and non-attached as it passes away.
The photographs above are a small selection of images captured in the manner of the flâneur. Enjoy and please let me know if you would ever like to join me on an aimless wander. Stopping for un café, of course.
Navyo is a regular contributor to this magazine
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