When the offices of Charlie Hebdo were attacked in January 2015, my annual Parisian holiday to visit family and friends turned into an intense, life-changing but ultimately life affirming journey experienced literally on the streets of Paris. Armed with my camera, I used my art to capture the spontaneous cri de coeur of grief, rage and hope expressed by stunning graffiti and emotional tributes everywhere I walked. The evocative images from those extraordinary days have been collected into an exhibit entitled N’oubliez Jamais (Never Forget) which was on view for five months at Allliance Française de Houston in 2015.
As an American, I remember where I was and what I was doing when we were attacked on 9/11. What happened on that January morning in the Rue Nicolas Appert provoked the same stunned reaction in the French people and in everyone who felt a connection to them and their country. The attack was surreal, vicious almost beyond belief, and anguished Parisians and their countrymen who took peacefully to the streets to integrate what had happened, cope with the realization of their vulnerability, and show support and solidarity with their fellow citizens and the world.
I’ve been to Paris many times and I know the sounds of the city. After the attack, an eerie silence settled over everything and everyone. People were shell-shocked. No one acted normally. When something like that happens, you don’t know what to do but you feel that you must do something. So when everyone poured out on to the streets, I grabbed my camera and joined them. Many of the messages I saw were pleas for tolerance and acceptance of diversity, but most said simply, ‘Je suis Charlie’ (I am Charlie) or ‘L’amour puis fortque la haine’ (Love is stronger than hate). I found the solidarity incredibly comforting and hopeful.