Since 2016, I have taken colourful happy photographs of people passing by on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. I called the series “Promenade Moments”.
The photos represent the pleasure of distraction to find peace and tranquility, fueled by the warm sun and the calm of the sea. The colours and moments of relaxation on the promenade fill me with energy.
“Promenade Moments are ephemerid encounters of people passing by, instants of joy and relax for family and friends. Tourists enjoy the spectacular colours that even the rain cannot delete. Soldiers have become part of the prom’ where children play happily. People stop to look into the infinity of the blue sea. Moments and movements surround us in a place where the evil tried to take grip, but the freedom of everyday life full of ease and light prevail.”
The series is being exhibited in France, Germany, Italy and Russia, and won prices. At present, it can be seen in the French-German Youth Centre in Berlin, Germany, at the Accademia Scaglia in Trieste, Italy, and in June 2020 it will be exhibited at the French Institute in Düsseldorf, Germany.
Since some months I approach my shiny pictures in a more critical way. At first, I needed the distraction, the peace and the quietness in which the warm sun and calm sea radiated. The colours gave me strength. After three years, I am now ready to take a more critical look and to address the dark side. The 2016 terror attack happened in the same place where I took my photographs. This spot has left too many victims, 86 died, 486 were injured. Evidences of the attack are still visible right beside the happy tourists.
The contrast between the carefree life by the sea and the massacre still represents an open wound in Nice. Tourists from around the world take selfies in front of the blue sea. On the other side of the road, hidden in a small park in the shade of the magnificent Negresco Palace, the families of the victims have built a memorial. Flowers and individual items are lovingly arranged by those who have lost a dear one.
The city of Nice preserves its radiant image, wants to forget what is behind us, wants to look to the future. We must all look forward. This may work for those who (like me), were able to take their children into their arms again on the next day.
But who can no longer kiss his son, how can he enjoy the colours of the sea? The older gentleman who walks with his crutch, his head high, and hides his amputated leg, that was run over by the terrorist truck, under his pants. His twelve-year old grandson witnessed people dying and screaming and can no longer concentrate properly at school. The wheelchair user rests for minutes in front of the memorial and rolls away quietly avoiding eye contact.
The promenade is now newly paved, wide and shiny, lined with wonderful, proud and tall palm trees. After two years of construction, people regain their space and enjoy the sun, sea and colours. Where there used to be parking lots and car queues, there is now open space for pedestrians and bicycles.
The city has improved its beauty. And its safety. Soldiers patrol the pedestrian zone dressed in their war clothes. Their huge guns are well visible. What makes me shiver is meant to inspire confidence that everything is under control. One inevitably faces the contrasts between the superficial happy colourful life and the fading attack, while walking consciously on the promenade.
The history of this promenade cannot and must not be hidden below the asphalt. The glossy layer that is placed on the memories cannot bury the pain. The thick bollards that gleam in proper white in the sun are actually planted two meters deep in concrete so that a heavy truck can never again plow its way into crowds.
The lettering on the floor of the promenade “L’amour triomphera toujours” is still visible but slowly fading in the strong sun. This gave me the idea for the name of my project that expresses the essence of it. Before the memory fades, it is important to remember and to work on what moves us. If we do not let fear and anger, revenge and hatred take over, then love will win in the end.
I decided to address the conflict between the dark past and the desire to live a free and happy life with my photography. I initiated a different dialogue through my art. During my exhibitions, vernissages, talks and workshops, I have been discussing the conflict between my happy pictures and the dark feelings of the victims.
This has brought up many thoughts, linked to what goes on in Europe and the world. I observe increasing racism, less tolerance and more brutality in our society. Walls are starting to rise again, after they were torn down in Europe.
So, here is my photography project which says: Dark times may try to take over but in the end the light and colours come back. Our society is resilient and strong if we are aware, open-minded, and generous. Someone tried to destroy our values of freedom and liberty, people were annihilated.
The wounds are still visible. But time passes. The city demonstrates to have control and spreads security. It gains back the normal daily life of people promenading along the sea. In the end, love will win, always.