Je suis Charlie… And have been for a while.
Not too many people know this, but I used to be a cartoonist. The work never amounted to anything and I moved on to photography. I started when I was 12, inspired by Asterix and Tintin like everybody else. But later in my teens I started to read more of the big names: French and Belgian artists like Moebus, Goetlib in publications like Fluide Glaciale, rubrique à brac and the likes. Then came Hara Kiri, a spin-off of Charlie Hebdo with Reiser, Cabu and Wollinski. The most vulgar and vile humor I had ever seen. Nothing was taboo for these guys and it was mind blowing. They put to paper what people did not dare to speak of and then some! Now you have to realize that back in the late 70’s controversy was not available one simple click away. You got ahold of that stuff from an older cousin or something. All these guys were an inspiration and at some level heroes to me for being that bold.
Today I felt strange going through my day, didn’t know if I was mad or sad. I went to take some shots at the vigil downtown. I showed up to see a thousand people braving the cold and the atmosphere was jovial in general. I hurried to get some shots and when my camera froze I decided to call it an evening. Before I left, I went to the small improvised memorial to leave my pencil amongst the other pencils and the candles. Then the whole thing came crashing down on me. The bastards took away my heroes. People who had the balls to stand for what they believed in where stolen from us in the most horrible way and it just overwhelmed me with sadness. It was 9/11 for me all over again.
I got back home and post-edited my images and balled my eyes out again while editing the memorial shot. Will this bring me down? Hell no! If anything it gives me even more courage to stick to my convictions and hopefully it will inspire others to do the same. Charlie Hebdo is not dead, if anything it has spawned even more creative and daring spirits. If you ever get intimidated for making any kind of art, remember these words from Charb, “I’d rather die standing than live on my knees”.
Click on the photo above to open the gallery. All photography by Gerry Lauzon.