For a French/Danish art exhibition in Copenhagen, Denmark, I was invited to create an exhibition showcasing a few corners in Paris, seen through my eyes as a humanitarian photographer. It was a project of many twists and turns along the way – and fantastic people both in the research phase and on the streets in Paris. The exhibition has just ended and more than 2500 people came out to see it – for those who couldn’t be there, I’m very happy to share it with you here. As this was not a direct photojournalistic project I had the artistic freedom to work on and develop the rough, dirty feeling of the streets more than my normal projects allow me, this was a great experience. A big thank you goes out to the people behind www.frenchartday.com for the organization of some great days. This is the story I created for them.
“Do you want some food?” a wrinkled woman asks me. I kindly turn down her offer and tell her I am fine. “Are you sure?” she insists “It’s for everybody!”.
This is not an offer of politeness, she has spotted me from across the square, and she genuinely cares.
It’s Wednesday night, I’m sitting on a cold stone in Place de Budapest, Paris. Resto Du Coeur has rolled out their tables and food is being served to a line of around 150 waiting people. Simultaneously this scene is being repeated in several other locations across town, tonight and all other days of the week.
I’ve been on the streets for a couple of days, and have blended into the crowd enough for the wrinkled social worker to take me as someone in need. Most strikingly is indeed the number of “normal looking” people in the line. People looking like they are on their way home from the office – and in fact they might very well be. On the back of increasing rents and cost of everyday items in the shops, there’s a growing number of people that simply cannot make ends meet, and so the soup kitchens take on a new roll of not only providing for the homeless, but reaching out to a much larger and diverse group.
The European middle class is under attack, and having a job is no longer a guarantee for food on the table or a roof over your head. Social and economic challenges are no longer distant subjects in the news. Individuals, families and children are falling over the edge daily, becoming members of the “new-poor” class. It’s a hard definable group, breaking classic descriptions of someone to be standing in line for food or shelter at night.
These images are produced over the course of 8 days in November 2012, during a long series of walks through the streets of Paris. Shooting was done day and night, under and above ground, on the boulevards and in the gutter. The subjects are isolated, captured on the distressed stage of the streets, one fate unaware of the next, one path crossing another. In a maze of entangled journeys each subject is frozen in its own frame.
The series is a preview of a planned project focussed on documenting the current social challenges in Europe, resulting in the rapid growth of the “new-poor” class. Further funding will determine the longer term future of this project.
All images are sold framed and benefits will go directly into the support of my continued humanitarian work. Pictures from the exhibition will be online soon in the Exhibitions section