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Restless Days: Algeria from East to West (2001-2003)

Algerian chronicles of a return (1993-2003)

In June 1993, I went to Algeria for the first time for a photo shoot on Algiers. Yet, this first trip to Algeria had a special ring to me. It was the first time I would set foot on my fathers native soil, so far unknown to me. My father is Algerian and my mothers French, but my Algerian origins were kept hidden from me until 10 years ago. I had never met my fathers family and knew nothing about them. The only thing I was aware of was my fathers birthplace, found in the family book, and that was enough to find the place. On a May day in 1993, I met my family in a little village in the Setif region, where a row of weeping women welcomed me with their youyous !

This reunion was very moving, but unfortunately it happened in a difficult time, because of what was going on then in the country. Belhadj had been preaching at the so-called Mosque des Afghans (The Afghan Mosque) in Belcourt (Algiers), and all foreign nationals were the targets of attacks and killings. Ninjas were patrolling the streets of Algiers which created a climate of insecurity and suspicion. It was quite natural then to take a documentary approach to Algeria and blend it with my quest for identity.
On my second trip there, I managed to convince my father to come back and see his family that he left forty five years ago, and to whom he had never given any sign of life.

This reunion was for me an opportunity to get to know a less manichean reality than the one shown by the media. Then, I decided to return on a regular basis to Algeria, despite the fact that nowadays this is one of the most difficult countries to approach. It had become clear to me that I should work on the country where my father was born, where his family - who gave me such a warm welcome, opening their hearts to me was living, the country of my origins, where my future was already taking roots.

Thus, over time, as I made more trips to Algeria, a narrative took shape little by little, mixing documentation and story telling. A narrative told in images, trying to grasp a complex reality. But the more complex this reality was, the more interesting the diffraction of points of view. And thus autobiography mingles with the making of a diary in pictures, a sort of logbook where my impressions, my feelings and my thoughts of the moment are printed, with added to that a documentation on the living conditions of the Algerians that I met while on my daily wanderings looking for reality (womens condition, young peoples situation, urban and rural difficulties).

This is a work in progress, each trip being a brick in the building of the final edifice, which however can only remain an incomplete picture of a more global situation.


In the Spring of 2003 - among other things - I crossed Algeria from East to West. It was an old project that I wanted to do in 1993, but I had given up the idea due to the crazy embrasure the country was then going through. I managed to complete this story in a journey that lasted 25 days, a journey that took me from the Tunisian border to the Moroccan border.

This trip was, of course, geographical: the Kabil mountains, the plains of Mitidja, Algiers, the centre, the Oranais region It was also the occasion to meet the people who make this country, a chance to see what they're becoming and to get to know their hopes.
I also made the most of the relative calmness that the country was going through to visit areas (Centre region, Mitidja, and the Western region) where terrorism had been the most violent: slaughters, arbitrary arrests, people going missing, etc.
In these places, people had been heckled between the armed groups violence and the arbitrary and terrors perpetrated by the State forces. It was during this stay that I felt that my work on Algeria - at least in this form - had come to an end.

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