A recent trip to Paris in November 2011 encouraged me to re-trace some of the steps I had taken when I first created the series, ‘Les Murs de Paris’. I wanted to see what had changed and what had remained the same over the five years that had passed from my initial walks around the city.
Much of my focus during this trip was to explore the area where I had lived in Paris during the late 1990s – the 20ème, and more specially the area around Belleville. The streets around my old Paris home have seen a great deal of change. While I lived in the city an area of low rise around rue de L’Ermitage had been endangered by re-development – but a campaign led by leading artists put a halt to this. But as I walked around in November 2011 I could see that development was slowly encroaching on this low rise hold out among the tower blocks of this north eastern Paris district.
One of the streets I had walked down in early 2006, rue Denoyez is now covered in graffiti as the developers move in and réaménagement takes hold. Walking up to Parc Belleville from rue Denoyez, a recent plaque marks the site of the last battles of the Paris Commune that occurred on 28 May 1871. The plaque is a tribute to those who fought for freedom and justice to which someone has added ‘social justice’. Longer standing memorials mark the deaths of resistance fighters, and on many school buildings the deportation of Jewish children during the 1940s. Walking down rue de Rosiers in the 4ème a newer memorial at number 16 marks the home of several jewish residents who were deported – a reflection perhaps on Gunter Demnig’s Stolpersteine Project?
Many of the things I photographed in 2006 have long since gone; the wall murals at Abbesses metro station (all nice and white now), the prowling tigers at Ville de L’Ermitage and the cat at rue de cascades – replaced by sperm. But it was nice to see that the tigers in rue des rosiers are still there – though someone has added ‘nature strikes back’ over the original mural.