These photographs were captured by photographer William Joseph, featuring model Margarita Kamenskaya, with assistance from Emily Holdup. The series showcases the events that unfolded on the 1st of May 2023 at William’s apartment on Rue de Malte in the eleventh arrondissement of Paris and the nearby Canal Saint Martin. Despite the challenges posed by the bustling streets and ongoing protests, the team embarked on a unique and poignant photo shoot, capturing the atmosphere of that day and conveying a narrative of exile, revolt, and the pursuit of freedom in the face of historical weight.
William Joseph: “These photographs were taken at my apartment on Rue de Malte in the eleventh arrondissement of Paris and at the nearby Canal Saint Martin on the 1st of May 2023. In France, May 1st is la Fête du Travail and probably the worst possible day to organize a shoot at my address, since people throng the streets and converge on the adjacent Place de la République. This year, the demonstrations were more charged than ever on account of the President having recently signed controversial pension reforms into law and the rising cost of living.
With the streets blocked and so many people on the move, Margarita’s taxi was diverted again and again, and I began to feel more and more foolish for having planned our shoot on this, of all days. How little I knew of the way things were here! How ignorant I was! Clearly, despite my years living in France, I remained outside of the culture. The driver got as close as he could, and Margarita walked the rest of the way. When she finally arrived and we began to shoot, the street below the apartment was lined with gendarmes and their oversized vans. When we opened the window, we found the air full of the din of drums, the angry chants of protesters, and the deafening explosions of tear gas canisters. Soon, the gendarmes, clad in their black armour and brandishing their batons, moved off in formation, presumably summoned to join the fray. As we worked, the sky turned dark. What little light there had been fled the apartment; it thundered, and cords of rain began to slant past the windows.
“… I began to feel more and more foolish for having planned our shoot on this, of all days. How little I knew of the way things were here!”
We spoke about the Italian writer Curzio Malaparte, who, despite his passion for France, its people, and culture, always felt like an outsider here. In his Journal d’un étranger à Paris, Malaparte describes an immense protest he witnessed in 1919 “against the cost of living, or I do not know what.” The protests were by soldiers, “the most tenacious, the hardest, the bravest in all the world,” writes Malaparte, men who had stood and fought for France. Malaparte knew these men, had himself fought and suffered alongside them during the war (“they were my war comrades, I was proud of them”). The Italian writer watched with horror as this invincible army of veterans suffered the blows of police batons and was dispersed. Leaning on a column in front of l’Hôtel Crillon, barely able to hold back his tears, Malaparte felt that, after all, his generation had lost the war.
Although we had hoped to make our way into the Marais, we were forced to drop this part of our plan and shoot next to the canal instead; the protesters were, by this time, on their way towards Bastille and formed an impenetrable column that blocked our way. Whatever I had or had not planned for this shoot, whatever story I had hoped to tell, the photographs depict, it seems to me, something essential of that day and its particular melancholy. For me, these moody, anarchic images speak of the crushing weight of history always bearing down on each of us and of the individual struggle to wrest oneself free of its relentless narrative arc. Here, I present to you something of exile, revolt, grand ideas about freedom and Europe, chaos, contempt, the taste of thunder, and tear gas.”
Model: Margarita Kamenskaya: www.instagram.com/margarita.kamenskaya_
Photographer: William Joseph: www.instagram.com/william.joseph12
Assisted by Emily Holdup: www.instagram.com/holdupe
Rose jump suit by Lola Tara: www.instagram.com/lolataraofficial
White dress by Kúr: www.instagram.com/kurnewyork
Black swim suit by SageSwim: www.instagram.com/sageswm
Dark grey dress by Luhniio: www.instagram.com/luhniio.official
Coral shorts by Autonomie: www.instagram.com/autonomie.official
Earrings by Hello Zephyr: www.instagram.com/hello.zephyr
Wardrobe provision by Noeud PR & Communication Agency: www.instagram.com/noeudpr