Purposeful Messages from Strangers

Photographer/videographer Ellen Silverman is a big contributor to our SignLaboratory on Instagram; she always has her eyes out for messages hidden in the ordinary. She sent these images of tiny street garden she saw in the Canal St. Martin neighborhood of Paris. We translated it to discover that it is a clever, charming-but-very-direct way of saying please respect this garden, handwritten and affixed to vines.

Ellen Silverman

Ellen Silverman

je ne suis pas un cendrier
je ne suis pas un panier en papiers
je ne suis pas un pissoir en passant
je ne suis pas un chiotte de chiens

je suis un jardin joli
le jardiniere vous dit merci

Here’s our rough translation, with help from David Saltman who knows his slang:

I’m not an ashtray
I am not a trash basket
I’m not a pissoir in passing
I’m not a dog crapper

I’m a pretty garden
the gardener tells you thank you

It is a curiously personal handwritten note of…fierce protection and thanks.  And we imagine, very effective. We wondered if the writer replaces the sign when it gets damaged, to keep the personal message going. Whatever, he/she figured out a very cool way of communicating to strangers.

It got us thinking about the loose, personal-yet-targeted messages left in public that we sometimes see that are quite different from graffiti. Here’s one we saw on the sidewalk on a particularly sad, druggy corner of 125th Street in Harlem today. It even had an email address.

Sally Schneider

Sally Schneider

And there’s the one Josh Eisen found at a bus stop…

Josh Eisen

Josh Eisen

They seem meant just for us.

We realize WE could write our own helpful messages and leave them around…

Sally Schneider

Sally Schneider

Sally Schneider

Sally Schneider

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