I didn’t take any photos today. The world’s media is camped out at key points around the city, ready to pounce on memorable images of solidarity, grief or confusion. I walked through Place de République this morning, passed both Notre Dame and the Hôtel de Ville this afternoon but the camera stayed in my bag. I felt I had to live this day, not record it.
You could illustrate many different narratives with pictures from the streets of Paris on this day of national mourning. The intense, personal grief of the bereaved or injured is mostly hidden behind closed doors, but faces on the street show sorrow too. You can see wariness and anxiety, but also people enjoying relaxed conversation and companionship. Lots of families with small children were out in our local park this morning and the mood was far from somber.
In the Paris streets, you don’t usually make eye contact with passing strangers. Today people (some people), seemed less insulated than usual. It may be wariness that makes you glance up to see if a passerby might be dangerous; when you catch their eye and realise they look friendly, the impulse is to smile (if only fleetingly). That’s not very Parisian, but it is very human.
This rather fuzzy picture was taken ten days ago. It’s an image of Before – before the city was shaken by six brutal attacks. Sometime soon, the bubble makers will be back at work. A similar picture could illustrate After.