L'Amour Triomphera Toujours
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”. It has won several awards and has been exhibited in France, Germany, Italy and Russia.
At present, it can be seen in the French-German Youth Center 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 took place at the same spot where I took my photographs. This spot has left too many victims, 86 died, 486 were injured.
There is still some evidence of the attack three years later right beside the happy tourists. People from all over the world come to take selfies in front of the renomated blue sea of the French Riviera. On the other side of the road, next to the shiny beautiful Negresco Palace and almost hidden in a small park across the street, you suddenly stand near a memorial. Floral arrangements and individual items are lovingly left by those who lost a dear one.
The city of Nice defends its beautiful shiny image of the vacation feeling: “What is behind us is forgotten, now let us look ahead”. This may work for those who (like me), were able to take their children into their arms again on the next day. But it does not work for so many, like the older gentleman who hides his amputated leg under his pants that was run over by the terrorist truck. 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. Things were destroyed, people were annihilated. The wounds are still visible. But time passes. The city demonstrates its security and gains back the normal daily life of people promenading along the sea.
In the end, love will win, always.