I don’t consider myself a « Street Photographer », like so many others who roam Paris, New York or Stratford-Upon-Avon, by day and by night, usually photographing with Leica’s using film and printing in black and white. Nevertheless, living in central Paris and always having a camera at the ready, there is frequently some little interaction taking place that may be worth capturing for posterity. This one was so close that I first had to run into another room and find my camera bag, before capturing it from my balcony.
Our current, highly-politicised security situation apart, I have always felt that Paris is one of those places with a bit of an edge. People quickly get ready for an argument, particularly when faced by the police. In fact, the more outnumbered they are by the police, the more they seem to get worked up. Not something that my little British self is used to.
Here we have a typical scenario. This lady is driving the wrong way down a one-way street towards the massed ranks of French riot police – the famous (infamous?) CRS, the Compagnies Republicaines de Securité, who were blocking my street during a large demonstration. Trained to face up to screaming mobs of molotov cocktail throwing, black-hooded, violent, “casseurs” their instincts are honed to perfection to smell trouble and “get their retaliation in first”, as I believe Americans like to say…
Clearly this would-be troublemaker was not going to hoodwink the Guardians of Order. Was she intending to accelerate to, say 4 MPH, whip out and assemble a weaponised walking stick to brandish at the nether parts of the approaching men of steel and perhaps reach into her ammunition box, cleverly disguised as a shopping bag and roll a few grenades into the melée?
Smelling the chance for a good fight, this CRS swaggered up to her, clothed in his gladiatorial protections and ready to unbutton his service pistol at the first sign of trouble. Watching from my balcony, I held my breath in anticipation of blood spurting and bones cracking. Maybe the lady would get hurt too?
I could hear nothing as the officer leaned over to courteously hear what she had to say, turned and cleared a path for her to get through the cordon and join the demonstration, which in fact consisted of very middle class Catholic families, nuns and priests protesting about same-sex marriage.
You can never be too careful
Even this most bourgeois of demonstrations received a lot of attention from the government and therefore the police and even resulted in many arrests later in the day (see my blog post of 29 May 2013). It reminded me of my first Paris Balcony/CRS experience in 1978, when I was living near the Place de la Bastille. One Saturday morning the street filled to the brim with CRS wagons, towing their supplies of shields and tear gas. They swaggered out, donned their kit and shouldered their grenade launchers.
I fearfully tried to spy out the threatening hordes who justified their presence, when I became aware that it consisted of a mass of women, many pushing strollers and holding toddlers by the hand, who were seeking support for “ Woman’s Right To Choose”. That’s the Paris I love.
Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: VR 24-70mm zoom f/2.8
Focal Length: 135mm
Focus Mode: AF-C
Shutter Speed: 1/640s
Auto Focus-Area Mode: Continuous
Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
ISO Sensitivity: 800
Does this ring any Parisian bells for you? Why not take a tour around my website for nostalgia’s sake?
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