“Hell is other people wrote Sartre. I am convinced otherwise. Hell is oneself cut off from other people.”
For some years, I had felt the need to go out and meet people who live in the street… So I wondered how I could photograph those in need in order to pass a human message. To do so, there was no need to travel to the third world or to “developing countries”. In Paris, right outside our windows, men and women live on metro vents, under the burning sun, under the rain, the snow, in the freezing cold or in the heat and pollution.
I turned to associations and EMMAUS SOLIDARITE responded. From the start, the project has been greeted with enthusiasm, which greatly stimulated me. We then decided to realize together 60 portraits for the 60th anniversary of the association Emmaüs Solidarité.
A majority of people who are photographed in this exhibition are supported by the association, which also provides shelter for many of them, but there are also volunteers and employees, and all of them welcomed me with radiant smiles despite the harshness of their daily lives. In their eyes, I saw the message of Abbé Pierre: “to give is to receive”.
Today more than ever, people like you and me suffer in their basic needs: food, clothing, warmth… And others devote their lives to respect and love them.
Through this project, I will remember two essential things: the first is that it is incredibly hard to ask for help, because human beings are proud. The second is that it takes amazing strength and great love to daily reach out to those in need, because poverty is way more comfortable in the papers.
When I arrived in Paris a few years back, I was astonished by its beauty but also shocked by its cruelty. Many time, I heard: “you get used to poverty, at some point you don’t even see it anymore”. I sincerely hope I won’t ever get used to it !
By taking their portraits, I wanted to give voice to those who usually make people turn away, those who nobody listens to, or even hears, and to whom it is disturbing to give voice.