One hundred years ago the Paris market was a permanent explosion of odour and colour. It had its own structure, Les Halles - 'the belly of Paris'. "Ce qui montait à la face était un souffle frais, un vent de mer...amer et salé" wrote Zola, describing the huge banks of fresh fish. Today, the unsold fish are packed back into polystyrene containers and the piles of ice and streams of salty water are washed quickly away into the gutters. The odour of fresh fish is an ephemeral sensation, never allowed to stay hanging in the air.
Unsold scraps and rejected offcuts are also thrown into the gutter. Empty boxes are piled up ready to be thrown into the backs of beeping and flashing street cleaning machines. This is when the desperate and the hungry appear, looking for castoffs that can be saved and put to good use. The saddest pieces remain; wilting leaves of lettuce, orange skins, broken eggs, fish heads, blackened and bruised bananas, the flesh bursting through split jackets. None will survive.
Less than an hour after the traders have packed up and gone home, the only evidence that there was a market at all are the skeletons of their stands. Soon these too will be taken away, the awnings rolled up like carpets around them. The street, hosed and scrubbed, sparkles in the low afternoon sun. It's so clean you could almost eat your dinner off it.