Posts Tagged ‘Paris’

Jazz Pas Grave II – day one

Saturday, June 9th, 2012

A few marvelous moments from the first of a three-day jazz festival at 59 rue de Rivoli in Paris.

Nicolas Genest with his group Hati

Guest sax player with O.R.U.S. Quartet

Malamente and Frank Cosentini of Guappecarto

Store-front concert on rue de Rivoli being saved into a compact camera

Paname bloo

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Hey remember that time in 2008 when we went out to get crepes under the tower,
just cuz the belle dame was blue?

Yeah, me neither, but I just found the photos.

Paname blues


D – 2 weeks: 40 hours of jazz

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Loosely defined, a plethora of genres, a place for musicians to meet and collaborations to form…. In two weeks I’ll be photographing a three-day jazz festival at 59 rue de Rivoli in Paris. These guys will be playing. Les Guappecarto. They are lovely subjects to have in front of the camera. Gorgeous music too.

Pierre La Braguette, Malamente, Professor, Frank Cosentini, & Dr. Zingarone

Frank Cosentini of Guappecarto

Dr. Zingarone of Guappecarto.

Here’s sun in your eyes

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Paris weather can be so disappointing, but at the end of the day when your hope is gone, the sun sometimes puts on a quick show and you think, “Paris, you bitch, you are beautiful.”

Paris, 11e.

France votes Hollande

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

Tens of thousands of people congregated at Place de la Bastille tonight to celebrate the departure of Sarkozy. Let’s be honest, the enthusiasm for François Hollande is subsequent to their tangible joy of seeing “Sarko” ousted. The optimism is flowing, along with beer, wine and champaign. France hasn’t had a left-wing president since François Mitterrand left office after two seven-year terms in 1995.

François Hollande's campaign slogan: C'est maintenant flies at Place de la Bastille. Right now.

Deep in the crowds at Place de la Bastille, listening to President Elect François Hollande's first speech.

Sarko has a great face for caricature.

In observing nine years of celebrations and protests, this is the highest number of people I've ever seen on the monument at Place de la Bastille at one time. May 6, 2012.

It's politics, so there will be disappointment. But right now, the joy and optimism are flowing like beer. Or maybe it's just the beer.

May 1, 2012

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Back in Paris just in time for May 1st. Last year, Côte d’Ivoire had the loudest, most urgent message. This year it’s clearly a distaste (I’m being too kind) for Sarkozy. It will be an interesting week leading up to Sunday’s election results. One of my dearest friends, in updating me on what he’s doing this week, said “and on Sunday we are changing the President.” We shall see very soon…

Sarko's words turned on himeslf, Casse toi, pov'con was the phrase of the day. It was Sarko's response to someone who refused his handshake at an Agriculture fair in 2008, saying 'don't touch me, you'll get me dirty,' and basically means, get outta here, stupid ass.

Boulevard St Michel, May 1, 2012.

Headline on Siné Mensuel: Last elections before the revolition.

Alternatives: Solidarity, Ecology, Feminism, Self-Management

This man was photographed at least 30 times in the five minutes that he walked by me. His sign: Sarkozy: Well, that's good, for US!

Place de la Bastille, May 1st, 2012. 'Sarko, you're an asshole.'

A moment in the life of Ealy Mays

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

Last week I stopped in Place Dalida to finish a sandwich. Between meetings on either side of the butte, I was in the right place at the right time to cross paths with my old friend Ealy Mays, a painter from Texas, who was, at that exact moment, moving out of his studio at Cité des Arts.

I hadn’t seen him in a few years. We met in another life when I was a bartender who took photos and he was, yet as always, a painter who painted. “Whatcha doin’ behind that bar? Got your camera? C’mon, I wanna show ya something.”

Anyway, he had been awake all night moving paintings and scrubbing the floor, and that morning had given a historical tour of Paris to a group of American tourists.

On our way up to his studio we were joined by a guy coming for the room inspection. It felt like college again. As the man started going down his short checklist, Ealy played bartender this time and poured us all a cup of wine.

Ealy Mays leaving Cité des Arts, Paris.

Before leaving he asked me to photograph him doing what all the tourists do when they pass through Place Dalida.

"You have to be out now," says the room inspector. "Here, have some wine. " responds Ealy

Sun Day

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

The sun is out, and it’s Sunday. The only thing on the agenda is “anything but work.”
I’m going out to play, with an old camera, a good book, and a notebook.

Butte Chaumont. Spring 2011. What it feels like today, on this late February day.

The night before the night before Christmas, when Chris was told to f*ck off

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Tonight I was moping around the Marais in the rain, eating Belgian chocolates, longing for Chicago and slipping into the feeling of old horse-drawn, cobble-stoned Paris, fantasizing that I’d find a small abandoned Christmas tree that I could drag home and hang my earrings on.

Sinking comfortably into my solitude, my eyes in the shadow of my wide-brimmed winter hat, I took the least populated streets until I found a clean, dimly-lit café terrasse and installed myself in the corner. There were only two other people outside: men bent over smartphones, quietly complaining to each other about their jobs. Inside there was only a woman about my age at the bar, poking fiercely at an iPhone. The waiter was cheerful and so was I, when he set down my glass of rouge that sparkled so prettily in the over-head heat lights.

I took out Le Monde magazine and turned to the article on Ai Weiwei, but my vulnerable pre-holiday state of mind needed the comfort of English. So I took out The New Yorker and felt more at home. Between these two subscriptions, if I spent all of my spare hours reading, I would still never finish them.

Two days before Christmas, this normally busy Marais street was wonderfully silent. Sitting in the warm red light, across the street from a building draped in twinkling blue, with both colors swirling around each other on the shiny pavement in between, it was a lovely scene.

Until it got better. I then had the luck to witness something really great. The men had just left and the girl from inside the bar came out, apparently needing some privacy to yell at her boyfriend. I looked up and our eyes met. I expected her to turn around and find somewhere to be alone, but she didn’t seem to mind me eavesdropping. She faced me as she yelled into her phone. “T’es ! Un ! Vrai ! Con ! Tu m’as pris du fric puis tu m’as jeté ! Je ne vais PLUS être ta connasse ! Je comprends pourquoi les gens te jettent, Chris ! Et moi, je te jette ! VA…TE…FAIRE…FOUTRE ! ET CREVER DANS TA MERDE !” With that, she went back inside, gathered her things and left.

Stunned at the beauty and force of her efficacy, I smiled and took out my pen to write down this treasure.

Merry Christmas eve eve Chris, wherever you are with this girl’s money.

Lonely man. Green light.

Paddy & Linda & Candles, Oh My

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

A night with Paddy Sherlock and his band at The Coolin in Paris
heals all wounds.

It’s even better when he plays Lulu le Chat
and it’s your birthday.

Linda McCluskey turns 23

La Defense, sort of occupied

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

I went to la Defense yesterday to check out the Occupy France/Les Indignés protest. I hadn’t realized they were there and apparently I wasn’t the only one, as I found the area not very occupied. It was rather disappointing. They have been there for 16 days, were washed away with police force mid-week, and put a call out for support to come yesterday at 17h.

Before going, I sent out many messages to friends, and was unable to convince anyone to come with me. Most already had plans, and others it seemed like just didn’t want to bother. One friend said that it was too far, if it had been on the way somewhere she would stop by. True, it’s physically outside the periphérique, but the metro takes you to just below the protesters and an escalator carries you up right next to them, up to probably the most obvious place the protest should happen.

It was late Saturday afternoon and the shopping center just below the protesters was more crowded, as was the line 1 metro on the way there, which deposited crowds of people from Chatelet to the Champs Elysees, where consumers hang out en masse on weekends. Leaving the protest, taking the stairs back down to the metro felt like returning to another reality, the hand-written cardboard calls for change replaced by big fancy shopping bags.

View of Les Indignés' meeting last night, viewed from the top of the steps leading to the Arch de la Défense

The welcome desk of Occupy La Defense, with a list of reasons they came, what they need in terms of logistical support in order to stay

Signs and posters delineated the center of the protest. The Hope Area.

At the meeting they went through a list of speakers, with a megaphone that distorted more than it projected. Considerable time was spent on how to be heard. Suggestions for the human megaphone, like in NYC, were offered and eventually someone came with an orange construction cone that worked rather well

Occupy La Defense, 19 November 2011

Manuel & Music

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Barry Desmond Jones, Manuel Baldassare and Schimon, playing music after a vernissage at 59 rue de Rivoli

When he makes art his insides come out – through his voice, through his hands, in painting, installation or music – and it appears to be as natural as breathing.

An illustrative story…one night we were at a jazz club. One of those on rue des Lombards. It was more or less a jam session night. He went out to smoke, and when he came back inside he made a B line straight for the stage and started playing the congas. I didn’t know he’d met one of the musicians outside, who invited him up to play. What I saw was my friend boldly going on stage without a word and playing like his life depended on it. Shy people like myself are in awe of such confidence and would like it to rub off.

This was Manu last year.
He still smiles like he did when I met him.

Manuel singing Freedom with as much emotion as Richie Havens

Manu’s site, for a look into his twisted universe.

Generosity, one week later

Friday, October 7th, 2011

Yesterday was the last day of my generosity experiment, as I had planned it, but it’s not really the end of anything.

What did I learn? Nothing earth shattering. You know, we’re all here together just trying to get along, some people struggle more than others or in different ways. No one feels good ignoring another person in need. I mean, I feel like shit turning my back on someone. So this week felt pretty good in that regard, as “no” was not an option.

Before this week, if I didn’t give money to a person who asked on the subway or in the street, I at least looked him/her in the eye and said something kind. It feels so inhuman to do otherwise. Unfortunately, in a big city it can get tricky. It’s crowded, you can feel over-solicited. Most of it happens in the metro. My roommate stopped taking the subway and felt the quality of her daily life greatly improved. I, on the other hand, spend a lot of time in underground transport and it’s almost like we live in different cities. You get pushed around down there, and because this is Paris you get elbowed and shouldered, you see many people down and out, hear many of them announce their stories, or put it in writing or sing you a song. Some people try to shut this out by making islands of themselves with iPods. I’ve see tourists being afraid, extremely uncomfortable, maybe coming from places that are clean and wealthy, where homelessness is against the law. I’ve heard people say, “You can’t give to everyone.” And, I suppose I’d disagree, as for the last week that’s what I did, when asked. I don’t know how much, I purposely didn’t want to quantify it, but it wasn’t bank-breaking.

I noticed some people that I hadn’t before, who are always in the same place. People with soft hands and sad eyes. Some moving fast, desperate, some dragging, numbed. Some with cats, some with dogs, that one guy with the sleeping puppies and a ferret. There’s the sweet calico cat with his man by the Marché d’Aligre. And that one man who seemed really happy lying there on that mattress at midnight, with two toddlers asleep next to him. He was the most disturbing.

Unfortunately I didn’t see the man who sparked this whole thing. His eyes were similar to the man below…who didn’t seem interested in talking, and I was too shy to ask all the questions in my mind.

Rue Fbg St Antoine

Naked in the park

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Walking in the park today, I was surprised to see an elderly woman sunbathing topless, then realized it was just a man with boobs and fluffy hair. I looked around to see if anyone else shared my curiosity but saw only these three people, in the shade of the shaggy trees.

Spending a day in the Butte Chaumont

My backyard

Monday, August 1st, 2011

The closest place I can go, to get as near to the sky as possible, while keeping my feet on the earth. It’s minutes from home, where I spent this year’s birthday and where I can hug a tree (when I think no one’s watching).

Picnickers on the Butte Chaumont


Friday, June 10th, 2011

I went up to the second floor to see one of my favorite people and he was gone. I hear he’s in Les Vosges or somewhere east, working for five months. I guess the tai chi lessons will be on hold for a while. This photo is from a few days before, when I found him making magic in the third floor kitchen.

You’re going to think I’m exaggerating but Slimane is sunshine. He’s gone through some difficult times since I’ve known him but I have never seen him down or upset. It must happen, for as far as I can tell he’s human, but he’s able to maintain a positive, balanced perspective. He is always quick with a joke, laughing, caring, smiling and Sincere. Usually when you walk into his studio he offers you a beer.

I have never walked away from him with a frown. And in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever walked towards him with a frown, for once I see him I can’t help smiling. As you do when the sun comes out on a cloudy day.

Slimane Hamadache...he sculpts, paints, cooks, coaches, writes, teaches and shines very bright. Often found making art at 59 rue de Rivoli, Paris.

Man-made borders

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

One year ago I met an extraordinary person. His brief visit to my city coincided with the moment I had decided to shave my head. Visually we made a remarkable pair.

We weren’t fluent in a common language but the connection was intuitive and I don’t remember communication being too much of a barrier. When you must speak Spanish, you just do. His country is reported to be reforming laws, making it easier for its citizens to travel abroad. My country tells me if I travel to his, I face “civil penalties and criminal prosecution upon return.”

What astounding barriers can interfere with the possibility of two people meeting each other. And yet, it happens.

Luis y Dani bajo una luz de néon.

Making it a real job

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

A birthday gift from my dad, I got to see Joe Bonamassa in concert tonight at the Olympia in Paris. I recently joked that his music had become the new family religion. I’m proud to say we’re a Chicago family and like big guitar sounds and blues.

It was one of the best concerts I have ever seen. He played almost 2 and a half hours and looked like he loved it as much as we did. When leaving, my spirits were so high I couldn’t fit into the metro and had to walk all the way home.

At one point Joe said he had taken a photo of the facade of the Olympia and sent it to his mother so she’d stop bugging him about getting a real job. He’d made it. Well I think he did that quite a while ago (opened for B.B. King at the age of 12! and will have his 34th birthday in a couple of days). It made me think of my parents and their relation to photography as “a real job.” I think they now believe I’m capable and do not worry as much, even if I have not reached the level of the Olympia.

May 5, 2011. Bonamassa at the Olympia.

Time for Outrage

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Stéphane Hessel began the evening by reciting Shakespeare’s Sonnet 71, which he kept in his breast pocket when he was a prisoner in the concentration camps. The sonnet was a message to his wife in case he were not to survive. Fortunately for us all, this courageous man was standing before us at the age of 93, his presence both rousing and reassuring, for he has survived horrors I can barely imagine.

Stéphane Hessel taking a question from the audience.

Hessel was at Shakespeare & Co. Monday night, for the occasion of his book “Indignez vous!” being published in English under the title “Time for Outrage!”, the first title under Charles Glass Books.

His book, a call to action and attention to human rights violations, to fighting for civil liberties, has sold almost 1.5 million copies in France since October. At 3€ and 32 pages, a sharp contrast to the size of its message and call to waking up, it is quickly and often shared.

Someone had the for-sight to offer it to Charlie Glass as a Christmas present, a fortuitous exchange that sparked its English translation.

Charlie Glass and Stéphane Hessel at Shakespeare & Co. Paris.

Later in the evening, at the end of a dinner to which we were graciously invited by Sylvia Whitman, Hessel departed with the words of Mark Antony in Julius Caesar, and again captivated us all. After he left, comments went around that no one commits such things to memory anymore, let alone recites them with such endearment. We can all Google anything we want and have it at our fingertips. Proposed keys to living long and well: laughing, poetry, caring deeply about humanity, and the occasional tagine aux légumes.

Thank you Mr. Hessel, we are all grateful to have been in your presence. And thank you Charlie and Sylvia, for making it happen.

Hommage à Kertesz

Friday, October 29th, 2010

This morning I was up before the sun. It doesn’t happen often.
I work very well long after the sun goes down so I rarely see it rise.

From my kitchen, waiting for the coffee to brew and the bread to toast, I watched the light on these buildings change. I could see the sun, reflected in one small window over there on the other side of the canal. I grabbed a camera and just when I was about to take the photo, André Kertesz came flying by.

He’s been on my mind since seeing the retrospective at Jeu de Paume.
Is it possible to miss someone you have never met?

Sunrise across the canal

A classical weekend at 59

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

I spent the weekend photographing a classical music festival at 59 (click here for the story of 59 rue de Rivoli in Paris). It was an ambitious undertaking, with concerts in the ground-floor gallery every hour, 10 hours a day, as well as performances on all six floors. It was open to the public and all completely free, or however much you felt like contributing.

A piano was somehow maneuvered into Suisse’s Musée Igor Balut, where Lise Charrin was playing Bach and Scarlatti.

Lise Charrin nestled in the Musée Igor Balut with piano

Rabbit-filled playground

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Delightfully bizarre. That was Nuit Blanche 2010 at cinquante-neuf in Paris. Live music playing off the second-floor balcony, and alternatively in the ground-floor gallery . . . 20-second street performances in the middle of rue de Rivoli . . . collaborative painting on trucks and toile . . . men dressed scalp to toe in spandex bodysuits, all colors of the rainbow, plus camouflage . . . artists invited for one-night shows throughout 30 ever-evolving studios . . . spontaneous musical collaborations . . . and weaving through all of it, Paul Toupet‘s tireless team of dancing, traffic-stopping rabbits.

One of the lapin crew surveying pedestrian traffic

Mr Gaspard Delanoë welcoming guests at the front door

Crossing Rivoli, the facade of 59

Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome...rabbit stopping traffic

Sidewalk view from the second-floor balcony/stage

Suisse Marocain finishing the collaborative truck painting

Spandex on parade

20-second street happening every time the traffic light turns red

Night of the living traffic

Three lapins and a Manuel Baldassare painting



Another Rebirthday

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Seven years ago today I woke up in someone else’s life.

I didn’t anticipate how dramatic the change would be. I had big, impatient plans whose tires were spinning on the rug that I had arranged to be yanked from under my feet.

To start, I began drinking wine at every meal (excluding breakfast) and eating cheese that smelled like untouchable socks. I learned quickly that confrontation was not avoided here but even sought out and played with, that smiling while walking down the street made you look simple, that my pronunciations of regarder and rue de la verrerrie were better after drinking fruit juice, and that I understood nothing over the telephone and would have to go in person to read lips. I started swearing more in my native language to compensate for my impotence in my new life’s language. And, I didn’t recognize myself in the reflection of others because their eyes were looking through the heavy filter of my insufficient words. My small supply of adjectives just did not cover the scope of my thoughts.

The dream remained a dream, and every day was surreal
until surreal became real.

Me in 2003, when blog wasn't in my vocabulary and I didn't own a digital camera. Photo by V.M.

If change is the only constant, and because I like to count, I can say there have been 2,555 days of change between the me today and the girl in that photo. I knew her, I know her, I am her, I was her. I have sometimes forgotten her, hidden her, found her or denied her. I have pushed her very hard and yet not enough. I have taken her in and kicked her out, into the big wide world, to widen her peripheral vision.

Some days I have no regrets.
Today, I’m happy to be here, wherever I am.

On my street today, a man dressed in green, all the way down to his broom, said to his street-sweeping partner, “Partage un peu mon frère, la vie n’est que courte et éphémère.”


Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

He was that guy over there with the moustache who I felt looking at me, sometimes smiling, but never speaking. Italian, French, Spanish?

I didn’t see him again.

Months later he is sitting suddenly in front of me, smiling, eager to talk, having just returned from Italy. A new resident artist at 59.

He often has a smile like the tip of an iceberg of a story.
A story he doesn’t reveal to me. Not in words.

Manuel Baldassare, musician and painter currently working at 59 rue de Rivoli, 6th floor