My friend and colleague Willy Ronis photographed Paris all his life — it was his principle subject. His photos, like his contemporary Robert Doisneau, are full of joy and life, impregnated with a certain nostalgia for the post-war years. Yet Willy knew a darker Paris—Jewish, he survived because he left Paris for the Free Zone, and kept himself well hidden. Paris has not always been a refuge or a haven of peace—has not always been the city of lights, the number one tourist destination in the world. It has seen its share of bloody revolutions, of violence, repression, deportations, of other terrorist attacks before the two terrible ones of this year 2015.
I came to Paris in the sixties. I have photographed the city for over forty years. I never felt afraid or in danger walking through the streets with my camera. Of course a few times I had negative responses from people who didn’t want to be photographed. But that’s all. My book Only in Paris records those years of wandering the city: my encounters with the city’s beauty or its strangeness—but never with its violence. I was not wandering the streets of Paris on November 13, but in the South.
I’m glad I completed my project on Paris, just last year. I’m not sure what my vision would be of my city now nor whether I could photograph it with the same enthusiasm, pleasure and lightness of mind as I once did.
François Le Diascorn