In the Chaillot neighborhood of Paris on Saturday mornings, there’s usually an outdoor “marché” along Avenue President Wilson between the avenues d’Iéna and Marceau. It’s a quintessentially French affair filled with wines, cheeses, meats, poultries, fish, fruits and vegetables, as well as a sumptuous variety of prepared foods. The smells are intoxicating and the event is always lively and full of good cheer. My husband and I knew it was not likely to be open the morning after the terrorist attacks in the 10th and 11th arrondissements, but we went anyway just hoping to be around others and not be so isolated within the confines of our apartment, in [fear] [sadness] [resignation] [(all of the above)].
As we suspected, the marché didn’t take place, but still feeling the need to be out, we headed down President Wilson. We came to the Palais de Tokio, alongside which there’s a staircase that leads down to some streets adjacent to the Seine. Having just recently moved to this neighborhood, we hadn’t noticed this area before and went to explore. Directly at the bottom of the staircase is Rue de la Manutention which after a short block ends in Port Debily on the Seine. There is a small bridge there called the Pasarelle Debily that crosses the river and leaves you in front of the Museé de Quai Branly. The Quai Branly is a promenade along the south bank of the Seine, very close to the Eiffel Tower, where we discovered an outdoor installation of photography called We Are Family.
. . . without restricting itself to the traditional notion of the bloodline, . . . [t]he images presented here reflect a much broader concept: the family as a functional structure, a protective kernel, an environment conducive to a full, productive life for individuals and groups. A space for giving and receiving affection, for sharing interests – creative, political, religious, sexual – and for forging moral and emotional bonds. An ideal space within which the individual feels surrounded and shielded by the group. This family not only cushions us against the outside world, it facilitates our interaction with it as well. . . .
As we strolled through the exhibit – structured like a meandering path where the physicality of the installations themselves took on an element of geography – we felt palpably Kalero’s intent. The images both embraced us as, and challenged us to re-imagine our notions of, family. They demanded that we see ourselves in their faces and milieus, while reminding us that the knee jerk impulse to see them and their circumstances as foreign necessarily defined our “otherness,” as well.
Given the path created by the exhibit, and the incredible diversity of our fellow viewers (most of whom were visitors from all parts of the world), there was also the sensation, at times, of blurring the line between viewer and subject, of being the exhibit itself and sharing that feeling with the rest of those taking in the experience.
There are so many frames through which we can analyze the attacks that horrible Friday in Paris: A long history of political and social instability in the Middle East (an enormous amount of which can be laid at the feet of Western interference), oil and other economic interests, militarism, failed diplomacy, xenophobia, religious fundamentalism, even Climate Change (a three-year drought displacing 1.5 million people was a key factor in what led to the Syrian civil war precipitating the vacuum filled by ISIS), etc. It’s tempting to pick one or more frames and craft your response based on your [religious] [philosophical] [political] [and/or] [emotional] “frame[s] of mind”, but what occurs to me in the wake of what happened this last Friday in Paris is that it’s not any one or specific combination of reasons or incitements. It’s all of the above (as well as all those I neglected to list), and rather than focus on an analysis of “why” (I’ll leave that to those better versed in those individual frames), I simply wanted to share an experience we had the day after those horrible events in Paris, where the powerful shots of cameras, not guns, framed our shared humanity.
All photos were taken by K J Dwyer while visiting the exhibition ‘We Are Family’ at The Quai Branly in Paris, France.
A graduate of The Juilliard School in New York City, K J worked as an actor for nearly 15 years before turning to writing. After moving to Buenos Aires, Argentina, he published ten articles for The Huffington Post from 2008 – 2010, mostly dealing with his political observations as an ex-pat American. Principally a playwright, his play El Fin del Mundo will be published by Cecile’s Writers Magazine in October. He presently resides in Paris, France.