In a world that is often struck by tragedy, I am frequently reminded how fortunate I am. Despite the many advantages that society continues to make, the anguish of others is something that remains shocking to me. Considering multiple recent international events which are affecting a number of civilians, innocent people who have little to do with the conflict engulfing their lives, I think it is so important to remain connected to those who are struggling even if it is across the world. It is these connections that remind us of our humanity, our kindness, and our grace which may help prevent these horrific incidents from occurring in the future.
A month ago, the BBC released a striking gallery of refugee stories. From Syrian refugees in a camp to children fleeing the Central African Republic and Sudan, these images cause my heart to ache. The photographers have captured these moments, necessary ones, to make an audience connect to the violence in the world which is affecting millions. The UN recently estimated that the amount of refugees is somewhere near 51.2 million, a figure which has not been that high since the tragedy of WWII. In terrible conditions across the globe, I ardently admire these refugees and their resilience. I admire the humanitarians who continue to work and help others. And as someone who remains interested in photography and the human connection, I admire the photographers who capture these moments. You can check out the BBC Refugee Stories Gallery here: http://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-27925660
Looking at this gallery, I was reminded of my trip to Paris exactly a year ago. This was my last big stop on my journey across Europe when I had the opportunity to study abroad. I was immediately struck by the beauty of Paris, the essence which surrounds the city. Gorgeous architecture, amazing culture, and (of course) crepes are everywhere! Most importantly, I was struck by the disparity between the opulence of the wealthy and the strife of the poor. My first interaction with the homeless in Paris occurred when I was exploring nearly a block away from a large opera house. We walked around the outside, the grandiose inside left to our imaginations, and made our way towards a park we could see. Outside the park, a family stood on the street. I captured what I witnessed.
This family had a mattress inside a telephone booth. A woman squatted beneath a blanket as she attempted to shield herself from the crowd while changing. Another woman, who is the subject here, clutched her baby and scolded one child, as another naked son ran next to her without shoes or pants. I was shocked at their conditions, and I find myself thinking of this family even now.
Inside the park, I allowed myself to snap pictures of homeless men sleeping on benches. My heart was pounding and I was nervous, afraid that the men would protest and be humiliated by my decision to photograph them. And still I proceeded on, keeping the theme of black and white in order to simply convey the conditions and environment. The contrasting colors and gray bring out the stirring and strong presence of the subjects, in my opinion.
Here is the last picture I took of one of the homeless of Paris, a man sleeping next to the famous Seine River, where the Louvre was nearby and tourists tend to flock. Houseboats line the river, each in competition for the best view of the Eiffel Tower. And yet, a man slept on the cold concrete with nothing to cover him. He was alone, and there I was strolling around in a foreign country.
Hemingway once of said of his time in Paris, “Wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” It’s hard not to feel guilty when I am so fortunate and others remain suffering in this world, like the homeless of Paris. Honestly, I believe that is why I wanted to take these photographs, despite being nervous that I was intruding on a personal instance of suffering. I think that these grave moments must be captured in order for the outside world to understand that the global community, and even our local community, is not experiencing life the same way that we are. Yet, I will always have these photographs to remain connected and understand. So, I let them speak to you. I hope that my decision, even a year later, makes you feel deep in your soul a passion for the well-being of others, just as they still do for me.