Paris 95-00

Summer 1995. A month into my new life in Paris, unemployed, I wander the city photographing passers-by and street scenes. A voyeur without a compass.

On July 25th, I emerge from the Place Saint-Michel métro station. Sirens are screaming, the crowd is seething towards the riverbank. A terrorist attack has just taken place. As I run away, I take a picture of the Civil Security helicopters landing.

The rest of the summer passes without incident. I continue my wanderings, the memory of this drama haunts my mind. My project takes shape. It must reflect the anguish which inhabits me, the result of my demons, of external events. I feel vulnerable. Each photograph is a self-portrait.

I want to write a visual poem that situates the individual in the flow of a society and its history. I am a foreigner looking to fit in. This society, so deeply analyzed during my studies, fascinates me: its long history, its singular - not to say exotic - rites and rituals. I go to the Fête de l'Humanité, later to the demonstrations against the Juppé government's retirement plan. The project continues over several years with its ups and downs, its lulls.

After two years of living in Paris, I move to Grenoble, from where I undertake photographic raids on the capital. I go up to "report on" events: Bastille Day, Gay Pride, the Fête du Front National, the Techno Parade. Often, I simply seek to photograph daily life, street life.

This routine lasts three years and ends in 2000 when I return to the United States. All the photographs recorded over the years are printed on contact sheets and end up in trunks that cross the Atlantic. The images continue to populate my imagination and I compose virtual books in my head.

Almost 30 years after the beginning of this work, I finally manage to exhibit it, to publish a book. How to entitle it? Fin de siècle? Fin de millénaire? No, simply Paris 95-00.

© James Anderson all rights reserved
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