Read: Paris The Day After

FUJI2697

Up till 4AM. Sleep a few hours then up and back online monitoring what is going down. My flat mate has a date for coffee, but I’ve been asleep in more ways than one and my mobile battery and camera battery aren’t fully charged. She leaves before me, but I feel bad, so I pack and race out trying to catch up. Walking. Streets are not entirely deserted but the air has chilled significantly, and the entire feel can be summed up by moments of flickering intimacy.

Strangers no more. In milliseconds I make eye contact with those who pass on the street. “Hi.” “How are you?” “How are your friends, your family?” “Are you good?” “We are here.” “We are alive, now let’s show these people who is really in control.” “Cool?” “COOL!” “Okay, let’s go.” ALL of this conversation done without anything more than a glance. Focus, goosebumps and wind as storm clouds race by overhead.

All it takes is ONE footstep outside the confined safety of the home and already the balance of power has shifted back to the masses, the attacks a grain of sand blown back in the direction it came.

I retrace my route from the night before. Sirens. With each step I try to understand the odds of me being at the EXACT location of one of last night’s attacks an hour or so before it became real. On the way we pass another cafe filled with bullet holes and I realize it was another place I considered eating. I run into another photographer I know. There are police but no overwhelming sense of security. I’ve not made images like this in YEARS and even the idea of it feels wrong, like I’m going to get busted any second, but it never happens. I walk right up on the broken glass and suddenly find myself thinking about things like light, timing, composition, exposure, hunting foregrounds but paying detailed attention to what, and who, is around me. There are many press photographers and others just doing what I’m doing. Making pictures because we are here. For history, for memory. Get in, get the shot and get out, quickly. Frame it up mentally first and then physically make your move. When a group forms I subconsciously find myself wandering away to find my own small piece of Earth? The police lose patience and move in to move us out, but without the bite you would expect. It’s as if this is part of the plan. Let the public get close. Let them feel it, taste it. A man kneels and runs his hands across the bullet holes.
FUJI2702
My shoes crack on glass underfoot, and then I realize I’m standing in blood. At first I think “this can’t be.” But then I know it’s real. Spiderwebbed windows with blood trails. Particles, pieces of the battle scattered in the gutter. Chalk circles around Kalashnikov pockmarks on the wall across the street. A light rain falls and the media is out in force, but again, it all feels okay, blended. Civilians, journalists and mourners move in and out, talking to one another. More sirens. More photographers I know.

Rumors swirl. Police chasing a Citroen filled with armed men. Twenty ambulances roll by, bright blue flashers, sirens piercing the fading light with a unique shrill. Heads turn, collars are pulled tight and people move to where they need to be. Unmarked police cars in formation race by as day turns to night and Paris begins to glow.
FUJI2711
As the day advances so do the numbers of tourists emerging from hotels, hostels and homes, sniffing out the safety level. Backpackers, small groups of students with limited time who need to soak up every once of what Paris has to offer before the VISA or the funds run out. At five thirty I wait for a friend on a bridge in Central Paris. We walk toward Notre Dame looking for a Chinese restaurant. I have a foreboding feeling. French stormtroopers in camo with full autos in their hands tilt their berets toward the wind as their eyes work the crowd. No smiles here. If it goes down now there will be unsolvable trouble.

I’m relieved to find the restaurant off the beaten path, filled with locals. I’m looking at places differently. Glass fronts, single exits, large crowds are now viewed with skepticism. What’s my “Plan A?” “Plan B?” Not jumpy, just aware.
FUJI2684
At Republique we are moved out by police on loudspeakers telling us not to gather in groups. There are people doing what you do after things like this, but there is also laughter and uneasy smiles. This is, after all, who we are, how we deal. We are resilient. We find a way out. Always. As a united front peaceful people are unstoppable.

There is defiance here. A smoldering of something that started in January but just transformed into something entirely new. But there is work to be done, and how quickly will this story fade? How quickly will we return to our insatiable love of promotion, business, Hollywood? Will we wake tomorrow only to have the same breakfast we had today? Where are the twenty-somethings? The tech stars? The YouTube darlings? The A-listers? Where is the real action? Is there ANYONE standing behind the podiums in America who has any real understanding of what all of this means? Do they actually have any ability to make an impact or are we faced with more hyperbole and partisan rhetoric? When this happens again can we rightly call it a surprise?
FUJI2722
I fear that nothing will change. The jaded skeptic is here with me in Paris. We are sleeping together. One in the same. As a species, before anything else, we need to educate. Starting with ourselves. Do we know why? I mean REALLY know why? Why this is happening? I’m not so sure we do. In fact I’m nearly certain we don’t. We have become a species that lusts to be entertained. Reality has begun to pale in comparison to life on the screen. But this fight is all too real, and as evidenced by Paris, this is coming to all of our doors.

Vive La France

73 Comments on “Read: Paris The Day After”

  1. Remarkable Dan that, given who you are, and your beginnings as a photographer, that you were there, right there, then.

    Sending this to Provisors, Jack Sonni, Jonathan.

    Really nice piece…. are you home now?
    Best
    E

  2. I have been enjoying the staccato/Beat vice you’re developing in your writing. It’s a little eerie how well suited it is to current events.

    Getting at some deep truth of how Daniel feels about a photo show is good. Getting at some deep truth of how Daniel feels about life and death and war on the street is different.

    I’m glad you’re there and writing.

    1. AM,

      Thank you. Feels right. Fractured day, so fractured copy seems to fit. Sunny today, warm. A different story.

  3. The drumbeat of yet more snooping to “prtotect” us has already begun.

    My father always said that religion is the root cause of all wars. I disagree. We should not mistake the thing for the cloak it comes dressed in. Radix malorum cupiditas est. If you want to know where the malevolence comes from, look to those who are driven by the desire to accumulate filthy lucre. It is an ancient lesson.

    1. Lionel,
      Like the octopus. Many arms and legs, all moving like a magician. “Don’t look over here.”

  4. Thank you for this – beyond surreal and yet searingly real as well. I’m glad you’re safe and am so saddened for the losses. Much to process, and your piece asks all the right questions.

  5. Hola Amigo….errr I guess that should be Bonjour Mon Ami,

    With Sunday morning coffee in hand I came by your site thinking I hadn’t been by in many weeks….then I see multiple thumbnails with Paris written underneath….wow…timing.

    Glad to hear you and the group are okay! All the best for a safe return.

  6. I’m on my third round to try to make a comment or erase and stop. It’s hard. My last try: it’s from out of this world what happened. Yet it happens every day in the east. It’s here now. Brainless violence. On the doorstep. I digged in history from the 60ies 70ies 80ies 90ies. It happened before… I think. For just thinking differently. For believing something differently. For just being differently. It happened before.

    But we don’t learn. We are so wise. But we don’t learn.

    Repeat.
    Repeat.
    Repeat.

    Glad you’re sound and safe Dan. Keep strong.

    PS The Red Colors feel odd. Direct. In my face…

  7. There is a buzz in this Dan, almost like you are the photojournalist again. As somebody earlier said much more eloquently, the staccato beat is perfectly suited to this. Glad to hear you are safe, stay that way sir.

  8. In a previous post you said that you’re “not a photographer anymore” but the “journalist” in you never left…

    A great post Daniel and have a safe rest of your trip and a good journey back home.

  9. I have been fascinated for years at the detours life takes us. We start with an idea or a goal in mind and end with a result that is very different than what we had hoped. Somewhere a long the way we discover our voice and our purpose. Extraordinary thoughts for extraordinary times.

    1. Thanks Alex. I think there are some photogs out there who really went above and beyond. Paris Match did a special issue, which I have not seen, but I’m sure there are some remarkable images. I just made some simple pics and got out.

  10. D – Exquisite, poignant and brutally honest… and the beat goes on. Thank you for reminding us not to forget reality.. We unite for a time that directly relates to the breadth of the tragedy – and then at some point we loose track. Trusting that it somehow, impossibly, sticks – along this journey. Love to you over there and so very grateful to know you. L

    1. Hey Larry,
      Thanks for reading. Someone who was here who made it home said “Nothing feels right.” That’s a shame because you don’t want to give these guys more cred, but I see this is a positive as it is a reflection we can’t ignore. That was then, this is now.

  11. Dan ~ so glad you are safe and in synch with the unfolding moments … keep the rock rolling … sending EXTRA gorilla hugs from cOngO !! monique

    1. Monique,
      I was just near Filles du Calvier! Or whatever it is. And…guess who I ran into…..Nigel!

  12. Good to see you again Dan in such sad sad circumstances. Beautifully observed & written. We are glad to have you back & doing what you do best.

    1. Roberto,

      I KNEW I would run into you because I had just been talking about you. And, I greatly appreciate your questions about my health. It’s been a long run and you and I were hanging out right before I took the slide. Feels good to be back out there. Let’s keep in touch.

  13. Danno:
    The love we have in our hearts for you is replicated by the love we all share for Paris. You will always continue to be a most important part of our lives. Knowing that you are coming home to Amy, your Mom, your family, your friends, makes our prayers and dreams so in the moment. A ‘moment’ that many families will never feel again. Those family moments must now be focused on memories……happy memories. We all thank the powers that be that you are real and alive.
    Love,
    Uncs

    1. James,
      Thought about you guys a lot while I was other there. M and D and A too, and yes of course the Princess here in SoCal. I’m not worried. Not at all. Does not good and this will get solved like all things.

  14. No matter what you say, you are still a photographer and a journalist.

    Our core skill sets and instincts never leave.
    They just hibernate from time to time.

    Glad to know you’re in one piece. Safe travels.

  15. Hey Dan,
    Excellent piece/perspective.

    Do me a favor, tell those Liberal Media hacks to get back to work instead of interviewing each other on live TV and move to Brussels or at least change their camera angles for chrissakes!
    Stay safe!
    D.

    1. Deirdre,
      They do seem to like that one view. And the endlessly looping video should be eliminated as well. Not holding my breath.

  16. “I’m looking at places differently. Glass fronts, single exits, large crowds are now viewed with skepticism. What’s my “Plan A?” “Plan B?” Not jumpy, just aware.”

    Excellent post, Dan. You’re a true inspiration.

    Take care,

    Thorsteinn

  17. Thank you for sharing your incredible, often unfathomable experiences- so heartfelt. Thank you for taking us with you. Thankful you are home.

    1. Thanks Robin,
      Am glad I was there, for some strange reason. But also glad to have my boots on New Mexico soil.

  18. Your photography and observations are what makes this, and all your explorations, so interesting, gutsy, vulnerable and lovely. Thanks for doing this, being there and taking the time to report. It is good.
    M

    1. Thanks Munson. Coming from you means a lot. Saw you when I was leaving town. You were stuck in traffic…or what SF calls traffic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *