I began writing this piece two weeks to the day of the Paris attacks, two weeks to the day I took these photographs
On Friday, November 13th, my colleague Courtney and I spent the afternoon walking through the French capital. Our work was done for the day so we set out to capture quintessential Paris through the lens. We didn’t have to look far: Coffee drinkers, smokers, locals, tourists; people absorbing the city at every turn. We slipped between the crowds, capturing Parisian postcards.
It was too beautiful, too stereotypical, too ‘French’ — but it was real. Within hours, it would shatter.
We left an unseasonably warm Paris — bustling streets, people excited for the weekend — and set off on our return to London. On the Eurostar we dissected a successful few days at Paris Photo, already planning next year’s trip.
By the time I’d arrived home and turned on the TV the first shots had been fired, the calm broken. At first I couldn’t grasp the reality of it all. “But I was just there…” I kept repeating aloud, “No. I was just there!”
I’d almost forgotten the two rolls of black and white film I’d loaded on my little Olympus Trip that day, until they came back from the lab a week ago, every frame exposed.
I’ve been mulling over these contact sheets since, not knowing what to do with the negatives. Any other time I’d have already made prints or posted them on social media; ‘Winter in Paris…’ — clichéd street photography of a landmark city. But now, it’s… different.
I hesitated before deciding to share these images. Though the content isn’t offensive, the timing is sensitive. I didn’t directly experience the attacks and I was wary of hijacking the grief of those who did. However, we had left the city only a few hours before the atrocity, and I felt attached to it, horrified and deeply saddened.
I feel greedy stating that the people in these images are mine, but I feel like they are, in a way. I feel protective and want to know if they were affected in any way; I want to know if they were caught up in the barbaric events later that evening.
The digital images I’d taken on the day were edited, uploaded and shared in real-time, their cycle finished before the attacks occurred. The analogue images took a different path, however, creating a contrasting storyline to the simple moments in each frame.
Between capturing these photographs and viewing them, the context changed completely. Lives have been destroyed, fractured and derailed; these photographs now reflect an altered state, while providing a reminder of what we all need to cherish and protect.
The trajectory of these photographs has been interrupted, drastically altered, like the lives of so many