Looking through a tourist brochure, I admire the pictures, the snaps of familiar places, monuments I walk past every day, and I think, yes, it’s an attractive town. But the pictures lie, because they are just pictures. They show what a place looks like, not what it is. They show the fountains and the happy children splashing, the riverside walk where the skateboarders, cyclists and strollers cohabit. It looks like that, it really does, and the sky is as blue as in the photos and the river runs, the trees bow and sway. The flowers bloom and the tourists point their telephones and cameras.

But where is the homeless man who always sits on the same bench, the drunk asleep among the hibiscus? Where is the strange lady dressed all in yellow with artificial flowers in her hair, feeding the pigeons? I see no dog dirt and litter, no dog walkers discussing politics, no policemen asking the Rastaman to move on, no municipal gardeners armed with rakes and spades telling them to leave him alone. Where is the Gypsy couple with their plastic bags of belongings and their cat, the group of Bulgarian men fishing for catfish, the quiet-spoken Algerian reading the Koran?

Life is not just smiling blond-haired children and their youthful parents. There is dirt and difficulty, broken glass and broken hearts. There are sleek gulls and swans gliding, but huddled in the spring sunshine, there are pigeons with deformed feet waiting to die. The pictures are real and true. But they lie.


Not blue sky, not grey,

brown river or crystal clear,

but nuanced, like life.


Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

37 thoughts on “Pictures”

  1. i’m a dreamer, walking time,
    kissing you
    throughout those written


    Tis nor death or life,

    scientific, dumb genius,

    subtle, shades living…

      1. We’re the dominant species because we don’t live and let live. But in a natural balance there shouldn’t be a dominant species. We’re all in this together.

      2. Darling i would lov

        to hang on too…

        All of my memories, only society those few within humanity, have made my choices already…

        Their continued desire of destroying my frontal lube…

      3. They been trying for years now, slower recovery.. Nonetheless no damage…

        You would think, they would give-up, nonetheless i don’t see the end of their desires to,

        kill a gift…

  2. First of all this touched me deeply. You managed to put into words exactly what frustrates me about gussying up pictures to appeal to tourists and visitors. And I know they perhaps want to believe that they are visiting a bubble but it saddens me that these mysterious ‘they’ would not want to see reality. Do you know Albert Monier? He was a photographer who came from very near where I live in Cantal. He became celebrated as the father of le carte postale photographie. His pictures depict Paris and often Cantal in a truly journalistic light. One of my favourite images is a tramp asleep under le Pont Neuf but there are so many more that speak of hardship and real life. His postcards were huge hits in his lifetime and are still revered. Why then do Tourist Offices shy away from the real. Sorry ranting at 07:30 – doesn’t bode well for the day!!!!

    1. I don’t understand the processes at work, except insofar as we see what we want to see. Tourists, like the busloads from the incredibly inaptly named Viking Tours, are guided to the famous Capucins market where they will be seated at one of the grotty eateries inside that caters to the cloddos and SDF earlier in the day, then they will be guided back to the luxury bus pas the drunks and their dogs, through the streams of piss and pools of vomit outside the Samu Social. What do they see? Christ knows, but it isn’t what’s there. The local bourgeoisie though only sees the terrifying cloches and their wild mutts. They don’t see the luxury of the market, and they don’t ever exchange the time of day with any of the friendly and interesting SDFs. Prejudice and ignorance all around I see…

      1. He was a man before his time, I think. If you ever feel the urge to come visit the Cantal, much of it remains. But no nuns ….. except Russian ones. I must write about them.

      2. When we get a motor vehicule—I don’t promise a car, it’s as likely to be a tractor at this rate—I’d love to visit. In the summer when the permafrost has melted 🙂

      3. That would be lovely and a tractor would be more than appropriate given that we have three cows to every human (which may explain why I love it)

  3. The last lines of the prose are perfect, and so is the haiku.

    Yes, you are exactly right about the photographs that they are real and true, but that they don’t tell the whole truth. Life is definitely nuanced. (A funny aside, at lunch with a friend I used the word nuanced to describe the TV president played by Kiefer Sutherland in a current series–as contrasted with the real presidential horror we have.)

    But to be fair, if the tourists are walking about at all, they will still see the dirty streets and beggars. Some will notice and some will not, and they will have different reactions because they are individuals, too.

    1. That’s true. Especially about it not being thw whole picture. There’s the noise and the smells that are missing, the incidents that happened just before the shot was taken or just after. Some people are capable of airbrushing out the unpleasant aspects because they don’t want to see them.

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