Thousands of locks cluster on the railings of this bridge spanning the Seine. The locks come in all shapes and sizes; some are personalized with drawings or colors and all are hastily etched with initials. Each lock represents a pair of people who stood in this very spot and sought to bind their love in the hope it would last. Looking at the lines of locks clinging to this bridge, imagining all the tiny metal keys flung to the riverbed below, I wonder how many of these couplings worked out. Are the locks a monument to ephemera or eternity?
Love locks are thought to date back to at least WWI, when they were first placed on a bridge in Serbia. Since then, they have proliferated across the bridges of Europe and the world, particularly gaining steam in the early 2000s when an Italian young adult novel popularized the practice. Typically, a couple will inscribe their names on the lock, affix it to the bridge, and then toss the key in the waters below to symbolize the unbreakable nature of their union.
In Paris, the locks have appeared on at least eleven bridges, though they were traditionally affixed to the Pont des Arts. However, the staggering combined weight of the locks has caused concerns about structural integrity. Paris removed the locks from the Pont des Arts about two years ago, after more than 700,000 locks – amounting to the weight of roughly 20 elephants – had been hung on that one bridge. Cities are exploring alternative methods for maintaining this tradition as well as their bridges, such as iron sculptures or other structures on which locks can be hung.
Photo: Pont des Arts, Paris, France / July 2015
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