In January 2013, I came to Paris for the first time in forty years to present work at the first Black Portraiture[s] conference. I had planned to photograph there but had no agenda. My interest was piqued on the train from Charles de Gaulle airport, when five young black men in hoodies and backward baseball caps got on. I was immediately drawn to the critical mass of people of color in Paris, as well as the constant visual reference to African American music and culture that was present on the street. I began photographing and building up a network of contacts in France that began at the conference. I’ve had the opportunity to return multiple times, and I have since exhibited and published in France. In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo incidents, the refugee crisis, and the changing demographics in France and other parts of Europe, this investigation has taken on a wide range of complexities. French hip-hop is the second-largest-selling in its genre in the world, and it is not surprising that it has resonated with young immigrant populations. There is a vital jazz scene in France but also a growing specter of racism. I am interested in recording the ways in which black bodies exist in the world, and this project continues to be a stimulating and challenging one for me.
Research Article|November 01 2016
Black Presence in France
Nka (2016) 2016 (38-39): 210-217.
Lewis Watts; Black Presence in France. Nka 1 November 2016; 2016 (38-39): 210–217. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10757163-3641887
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