Inside the lodge: portraits of Paris concierges

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Concierges, or caretakers, have long been a typical feature of large apartment buildings in Paris. Living beside the entrance doors in what are often cramped lodges, they deliver the mail, clean the stairways, manage the rubbish bins and, with deter burglars and door-to-door salesmen. For many residents, the pleasant or unpleasant character of the concierge can play a key part in the quality of life in a building. Nadège Abadie went knocking at the doors of seven concierge lodges to present this series of portraits, in images and interviews, of Cybèle, Manuela, Elisabeth, Mariela, Abder, Marie-José and Paula, members of a profession increasingly threatened by service providers and security firms.

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  • (The series of portraits below is based on 'La Loge', a reportage of photos and sound recordings of interviews by Nadège Abadie, and for which Claire Bernengo directed the sound editing. Here, Mediapart English has translated extracts of the sound interviews with the concierges which Nadège Abadie recorded in French.)

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  1. Manuela has been concierge here for 14 years, and lives in the lodge with her husband and two children. “That’s already a lot of years,” she sighs. She also replaces other concierges when they take time off, including her aunt who works “at number 34” of the same street. They also take turns in replacing Manuela on her days off.  Her day begins at 8a.m. and Manuela keeps her lodge open until 9 p.m. “They all get up late here in the morning,” she says. “On the other hand, they all go to bed late at night. So I live at the same rhythm.” She pays no rent and earns 1,000 euros per month, but has to pay the electricity – “300 euros” – and other utilities. Both she and her husband must work to make ends meet. “Often they don’t want children in the caretaker’s lodge,” she says. Manuela’s children have never played in the courtyard because it is forbidden “even with a foam ball”. She is happy to be in an upmarket part of Paris where “everything is calm” after living in the more modest 18th arrondissement but “where the baguette cost 70 centimes” instead of 1 euro and10 centimes. “I wanted this neighbourhood” she says. “It’s true that for the education of the children it’s best to be here.”

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