Other than in the surname of the brilliant independent scientist James Lovelock, I’d never come across the term “love lock” until a couple of days ago. Then, by chance, I found it on the internet – where else, these days – and it perfectly described what I had seen earlier in the week on a footbridge in Koln, Germany.
My partner and I were on a European round trip culminating in a week in the Swiss Alps. Travelling by train, we had broken our return journey in Koln. We discovered a footbridge across the Rhine but at first I couldn’t understand what I was seeing there. On closer inspection it became clear…. many, many thousands of brightly coloured padlocks attached to the wire side of the footbridge. Each one was engraved with a couples’ names, or had them written on with indelible ink. The bridge ran alongside the main railway line as it left the station so it is difficult to imagine a more industrial setting
It was intriguing subject matter, but I saw I was not the only one with the same idea. How could I “add value” to an interesting but straightforward image? I had a short session with the camera at and after sunset. Down on my haunches I photographed the love locks with the railway behind them from the other side of the bridge as, almost by accident, a couple carrying a baby passed in front of me. It was a quite spontaneous pressing of the shutter; the idea or intention had not entered my conscious mind.
It had been almost dusk and I was using a slow-ish shutter speed and a wide aperture, so I couldn’t be certain the image had worked. The next morning I returned with the intention of replicating it, but this proved to be difficult. In the bright light of morning pedestrians could see me clearly and stopped to let me take my picture before walking past – they didn’t realise I needed them in it! I would wave them on but sometimes it’s just impossible to re-create a special photographic moment, even if all the elements are all present, so it was fortunate that the evening’s couple turned out to be perfect.
I read on the internet that attaching “love locks” to bridges or statues (and throwing away the key) is a trend of recent but unknown origin, which has taken root in several European cities, including Rome and Paris, in very much more romantic locations than the Koln example we came across. Sometimes they are removed by local authorities (citing Health and Safety perhaps….) and in Koln this had been proposed but residents protested and they are still there. What possible problem could they cause, I wonder? In my opinion “love locks” are wonderful idea.
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