Sunday I spent the afternoon photographing a protest against gay marriage in France. The sheer size of the demonstration was shocking. Streets filled with people chanting and waving flags. The demonstration was conducted surpassingly peacefully. Even counter protesters I saw stayed to sidewalk, often wearing t-shirts stating “Gay O.K.” One man I talked to seemed unfazed by the march he disagreed with and was content to wait for the counter demonstration in 2 weeks to make his voice heard.
At the end of the month the National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale) will consider a law allowing same-sex marriage (currently France allows same-sex civil unions) supported by French President, François Hollande. The 3 large groups of demonstrators marched through Paris converging on the Eiffel Tower for a rally against the proposed new law. Throughout the afternoon the park (Champ-de-Mars) continued to fill to the sound of pop music, most surprisingly, Gangnam Style. In total, police estimated 350,000 were in attendance, however event organizers counted 800,000. On Sunday, January 27, a demonstration will be held in support of gay marriage, I’ll be there as well.
Last Saturday I spent the day with the band Stars before their show at La Maroquinerie in Paris for Paste Magazine. Check out all the pictures here. http://www.pastemagazine.com/blogs/1000words/2012/12/a-day-in-the-life-stars.html
Wednesday mourning I went to a watch party to see the results come in. Due to the time differences the results weren’t in until about 5 in the morning, but when the election was called people celebrated. The long night didn’t deter the remaining American and French from dancing and drinking, and even after staying up all night some still had the energy to keep going until 8 when the Presidents acceptance speech finished.
I’ve been feeling a bit lacking in inspiration recently. I would wander the streets with my camera, making pictures, but lacking a goal, a project. Last week that changed. The sky was overcast, the peace before the approaching storm, and it created this wonderful atmosphere as we crossed the Seine on Pont Neuf. Mélanie was on the phone, but I stopped her to make a picture (see 5 blog posts ago) and I immediately fell in love with the bridge.
The first stone of Pont Neuf was laid in 1577 by King Henry III. He was crying that day, his two friends killed each other in a duel only a few days before and because of this it was nicknamed Pont des Pleurs (bridge of tears) at the time of construction. A fitting name for my time crossing it. The beautifully overcast sky of Paris was a predecessor to the inevitable rain that plagues the city in the fall. Tourists and Parisians pause regularly on the bridge, even in the rain, using the alcoves to check directions or meet friends, respectfully.
The bridge connects the north and south of Paris through its most famous island and historical birthing place, Île de la Cité. Sitting on the tip of the island and the halfway point of the bridge is a tribute to King Henry IV, built from the melted down remains of a statue formally immortalizing Napoleon Bonaparte. Now an abandoned mattress sits at the statue’s feet.
In the rain the bridge can take on a sad or sombre tone, however this is misleading and quickly the illusion is dispersed. This central crossing point is filled with life and has become one of my favorite locations in Paris. The bridge is an artery for the city, but also a place of calm. You can stand in one of its many alcoves, look out over the Seine and feel a sense of peace and escape from the city. It was one of many bridges at the time of its construction, but “New Bridge” (as its name translates) is the oldest remaining in Paris.
Walking near the famous Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, the light coming through trees provided a beautiful pattern. When the sun is out in Paris the light is absolutely gorgeous. Maybe it is all the white stone, maybe because we are higher on the globe, maybe it’s the pollution, I can’t say for exactly why, but it is always wonderful. Even when the sun hides for a week at a time, the light is still beautiful.
While walking along Pont Neuf I found this mattress not-quite-hidden behind a statue of the French King Henry IV. The original statue was destroyed during the French revolution and its current incarnation was rebuilt in 1818 from a melted statue of Napoleon.
In Paris it is easy to find mattresses such as this one, although usually not quite this daring in placement. Often you can find the homeless of Paris camped in quiet(ish) corners of metro stations, under bridges or occasionally in tents provided by support groups.
This mattress looked so sad as the rain started to fall. The person who called this place home was nowhere to be seen, I hope they found a better place to lay, it rained a lot that week. It offered no shelter from the elements or shield from the view of tourists, it was placed on a pedestal, at the feet of a long dead King, on the oldest bridge of Paris, New Bridge (Pont Neuf).
David Simon, creator of the Wire (among many, many more things), was in Paris to promote a French translation of his book Homicide and spoke at the English bookstore Shakespeare & Co. It was great to hear him talk about his career as a journalist and a producer of great TV shows.
Two months ago I said that when you hit a creative block to pick a place and start shooting. The last two days I’ve decided to follow my own advice again, with a little help from the purchase of a new photo book. I’ve been photographing at Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris (translated it means “new bridge”) and have been taking advantage of the overcast skys to create some moody pictures.
This picture is not from that project, it is just an outtake. More pictures to come soon.