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Algeria, Restless Days - Journey to Setif (1993-1997)

Algerian chronicles of a return (1993-2003)

In June of 1993, I traveled to Algeria for the first time to work on a photographic reportage on Alger. This first trip, however, bore much more meaning than I had expected it to. It was the first time I trod the ground my father had before me, the ground I had never known before then.
My father is Algerian and my mother French, but my Algerian origins have always been silent up to 10 years ago. I had never encountered the family on my father's side so I was always left in the dark. All I knew of was my father's birthplace, quickly learned glancing over a family register. This was enough to find him though, one day in 1993, in a small village in the Sétif region, where a group of women in tears greeted me with cries of despair.
This first contact though – despite the emotion behind this finding – was done under difficult circumstances because they were tied with national actuality: Madani de Belhadj preaching at the “Afghans at Belcourt” mosque, assassination attempts and bombings targeting foreigners, an atmosphere of suspicion and insecurity, “ninjas” roaming the streets of Alger…
It was only natural then to take a documentary approach to Algeria and have this blend with this quest for identity.
On my second trip there, I managed to convince my father de come back and see his family that he left forty five years ago without ever communicating with them again.
These discoveries were, for me, an opportunity to explore and familiarize myself with a reality that was a lot less Manichean than what is normally portrayed in the medias.
I decided to regularly return to Algeria, despite the increasing difficulty to travel there nowadays.
It was obvious to me to continue my work on Algeria, my father’s country, that of his family, the country that greeted with open hearts and open arms; country where my origins lie and where my future is slowly sinking its roots.
Thus a story has slowly developed mixing narration and documentation; a story in pictures seeking to decipher a complicated reality. The more complex the story, however, the more interesting the varied viewpoint upon the matter are.
The writing becomes both journalistic and autobiographical, like a diary with my impressions, sensations, thoughts; and a journal on the living conditions of Algerians (the condition of women, the situation of Algeria’s youth, the urban and rural realities…) who I encounter every day through my restless wandering, searching for truth.
This slowly developing project, each voyage a component of this final monument, a story steadily constructing itself where each picture is guided by reality. Every picture wants to be shown, showing being just another way of describing.

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