Five days passed since I returned from my first truly aware and art-focused trip to Paris and that place still lives in me as vibrant and beautiful as in reality. Just a bit above an hour flight from a quiet Irish city, from this still quite wild, romantic and half-empty landscape right to the utterly modern, imperialistic-looking metropolis – that was a sort of a cultural shock that I experienced. Right from an airport to a smelly, shabby-looking Metro station, and the commuters appearing to be like zombies in a panic-run – just cutting the space in front of them without the slightest care for the others. I merely managed to make a thought: ‘Oh, c’mon – slow down people’ when I was forced to join them in order not to be stampeded.
But quickly Paris revealed its innate pure magic due to my evening visit to the Montmartre district – those little streets, fancy displays, romantic candles-lit restaurants, then people engaged in making ‘live’ art right on the footpaths, ambient lights, locals lost in their lazy ‘carrying on’ (since their finished their daily ‘job&metro’ battle), angelic songs sung by the Basilique du Sacre Coeur nuns and – above all – that difficult to define yet quite intense ‘flavour’ of the French-ness around… Delightful melody of the language, proud presence of those dark-haired, pale, strong-minded individuals, elegance and superiority in architecture and decoration, charm and challenge. Yet- without being naive or all-too-positive – ‘French’ experience is probably one of the most commercialised, over-priced phenomenon of this world. French charge you for the air you breathe in, for the privilege of walking their streets and visiting their businesses, they charge art students for seeing the masterpieces (which belong to the human race in general) in the public museums, quite often they serve imitations, fakes and simply kitsch as a ‘Parisian’ treat. But – let’s just forget about all that…
On one day I’ve been caught right in the middle of a street protest, hundreds of very young people dressed mostly in dark clothes (seem to be all-national fashion) with banners and flags seemed to advocate their right to a better education. I was thrilled by an immense energy and power of that crowd – power of showing discontent, even anger without the slightest pretense or an attempt of a self-creation. One could just feel it – they sensed injustice so they got together and filled up the streets shouting their: ‘Resistance’! ‘Resistance’! mantra. For some strange reasons I couldn’t imagine similar thing in Ireland, or in many modern European cities, even in those with rebellious history, like some places in Poland are… It seems to remain an uniquely French privilege – to exercise the public freedom of the 60s-like expression of ‘No’ on almost daily basis without losing anything of their superbly contemporary spirit.
To avoid a cheesy relation I will split it up in few articles. All photos presented have been shot by the author with Canon EosD between 08-12 April 2008.