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PORTFOLIO

14.12.2018

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For many weeks now, France, and particularly Paris, has been shaken by protests of the so-called Yellow Vests. War photographer Véronique de Viguerie, who is capturing events with her Leica Q, is always on the front line. Gripping images showing a country in revolt.

LFI: You are a known and multi-award-winning war photographer. Did that experience prove useful during the Paris protests?
Véronique de Viguerie: Yes, I guess. Probably for keeping calm in a very tense situation; avoiding flying rocks, bottles and tear gas. It’s always a plus to be in a familiar situation.
Like, for example, I got used to tear gas while covering protests in Gaza, which meant I didn’t panic. Even if at a point you think you can't breathe anymore, you know that it will pass fast. So, in a sense I was prepared thanks to my previous experiences.
They also used a lot of very noisy grenades, which makes it feel like you’re in the middle of a battle in Mosul. But, thank God, there was no mortar, snipers, and so on; but the atmosphere can be overwhelming for sure.

What I would like to know is if this job was different or similar to photographing a war? Can you please elaborate?
It's very strange to have the feeling of going to war in your own city. To have breakfast with your kids, then put on your “war clothes”, like a helmet, mask, etc., and then come back for dinner, filthy, ears ringing, face blackened by smoke, smelling of tear gas, and high on adrenaline.
At one point, I was with photographer friends who had also covered the battle in Mosul, and we had to pinch ourselves to believe that we were actually in Paris. It was very impressive. The noise, the burnings, the grenades, the violence, the closed shops, the silence after the grenades, empty streets and the fear...

In another interview you said you want the public to have as much information as possible, so that they can judge a situation for themselves. How do you personally judge the protests that you’ve been covering since the very beginning?
All I can say is that I felt the rage of the Yellow Vests; a very sincere and deep one. To be honest, however, and having seen many countries in difficulties, I think French people in general don't appreciate the luck they have. As Sylvain Tesson said, “La France est un paradis peuplé de gens qui se croient en enfer.” France is a paradise filled with people who believe they are in hell.

Last weekend the CRS (Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité) took away your gas mask and other protective gear. How do you feel about that? Did you think about quitting?
Not at all; but I felt it was unfair to put me in danger, knowing that the protests were very violent, with a lot of dangerous, flying objects. I was very angry that they put me in a vulnerable position on purpose. I really hope this will never happen again to me or any other journalist; because many of my colleagues were wounded by flash balls, and so on. We know there are risks inherent to our job, but we must be allowed to protect ourselves to minimise them as much as possible; and if they do that again, some will be severely wounded for sure. I don't want any of my colleagues to loose an eye because they weren’t protected by a helmet.

Will you keep on covering the protests next weekend?
Yes.


All images on this page: © Véronique de Viguerie
Equipment: Leica Q with Summilux 28mm f/1.7 Asph
A “Yellow Vest” in action.
Protesters in front of the Arc de Triomphe.
The effects of a tear gas attack.
Security forces in front of the Arc de Triomphe.
Tanks in downtown Paris.
A member of the gendarmerie holding a grenade.
A burning car in Paris.

Véronique de Viguerie

After having completed a Master’s Degree in Law in France, the multi-awarded French photographer studied photojournalism in England. She later spent three years living and working in Afghanistan. Since 2006, she has been covering stories in the most dangerous places on the planet, such as Iraq, Somalia, Lebanon, Kashmir, Mexico, Algeria, Guatemala, Pakistan, Niger, Nigeria, Mali, and Syria. She takes on these challenging assignments and personal projects bravely, often working with her French journalist friend and colleague Manon Querouil. In 2018, de Viguerie won the prestigious Visa d'Or award for Yemen, The Hidden War.

Véronique de Viguerie is based in Paris.

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