Paris, May 68′

This month marks the 45th anniversary of the May 1968 protests in Paris. My father was living in Paris’s Latin Quarter at the time. He had finished his studies at la Sorbonne, was working as an English teacher at Air France and still living in his student hotel. “L’hotel de la Loire” on Rue Du Sommerard ended up being at the crossroads of most of the action during the month long protests.

Armed with a 35mm rangefinder “Rank Mamiya” w / f2.8 40mm lens and rolls of Kodak ‘Safety film’ (older name of Tri x pan) which he developed at home, he captured these images. Some of the pictures were scanned from a contact sheet as the negatives mysteriously vanished from a local lab. My father was eager to get proof prints done of the negatives, which featured some violent scenes of clashes; he never got them back.


© JD Arnold – A student barricade with burning cars, photographed on the corner of Rue St Jacques & Rue des Ecoles (the main Sorbonne University building is to the right of frame). The CRS (the notorious French riot police) barricade was on the other end of Rue St Jacques, and the student hotel was sandwiched between the two.

The CRS, Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité (English: Republican Security Companies). This riot police force has been much despised by generations of protestors and students; a popular slogan, coined in May 1968 and still used when I was a student in the 1990s in Paris was “CRS, SS!”, likening them to the Nazi SS.


© JD Arnold – Next to Odeon Metro station, the CRS gathering, preparing to confront students.


© JD Arnold – Taken from my father’s window, CRS charging towards students on Rue Des Ecoles. Canisters of teargas were exploding everywhere. During the protests, the constant cry of the students could be heard all over the latin quarter: “de l’eau! de l’eau! de l’eau!” (“water, water water!”) People would throw buckets of water out of their windows, as it helped dissolve the gas. Mr Victor, The hotel owner had to check all the windows every morning and often replace them (broken windows were treated as suspicious by the CRS)



© JD Arnold – An outer canister and three burned out inner canisters of teargas on my father’s floor. He was taking a photo through an open window, when the CRS saw him and fired a shot. Instinct told him to shut the window but the shot was powerful enough for the heavy canister to pass through the closed window on the 4th floor and exploded. In such a small enclosed space, it was potentially lethal, so he had to make a quick exit.


© JD Arnold – A demonstration on Champ De Mars, the student in the foreground is looking up at a police helicopter hovering above.



© JD Arnold – Students preparing themselves for the night’s confrontation.


© JD Arnold – Place Monge, the morning after.


© JD Arnold – Boulevard St Germain


© JD Arnold – CRS firing teargas on Place St Michel, one of the most touristic spots in Paris it was known then, as “no man’s land” .


© JD Arnold – Students, running from a police advance. Boulevard St Michel


© JD Arnold – A night time clash taken from my Father’s window.


© JD Arnold – Aftermath of the battle, a wounded student is taken to hospital by a Red Cross Ambulance.


© JD Arnold – Students on their way to a demonstration on Champ De Mars


© JD Arnold – composite of 2 images –
A meeting at the main amphitheater, still known today by Sorbonne students as “Le Grand Amphi”.

Above: The leaders of the student movement  Daniel Cohn-Bendit,  Jacques SauvageotAlain Geismar and Alain Krivine were gathering support to organize student action. My father took the pictures with flash and was promptly thrown out, only holding on to the roll of film by finally making the students understand that he was not CRS spy.


© JD Arnold – A large gathering of students in the Sorbonne’s courtyard


© JD Arnold – This image was taken on the corner of Boulevard St Germain and Rue St Jacques (taken from the hotel) On most days, the police would set up a massive blockade in one place and watch the students gradually assemble their barricade opposite them. When everything was ready, the actual fighting began. The CRS could have easily broken it up early if they had received the order to do so, but they usually waited, seemingly adhering to very traditional rules of engagement.


© JD Arnold – A student barricade Rue Des Ecoles.


Wikipedia page on May 68

Collection of May 1968 posters, featuring the CRS, SS poster and many others such as the famous slogan, ‘Sous les paves, la plage” (under the pave-stones, lies the beach)

Archive footage of May 68:

George Whitman

In the early sixties, my father bought his books from George and went to readings at his bookshop. 30 years later, I followed suit.

George Whitman, the American bookseller in Paris, – great friend of the Beat writers, and an even greater friend and patron of generations of aspiring wordsmiths – died this week at the age of 98.  His bookshop, Shakespeare & Co, on the left bank’s rue de la Bucherie, has an extraordinary history, one that has been recounted in a myriad of obituaries this week, including in the New York Times.

The last time I visited was in the summer of 2010, I attended Shakespeare & Co’s literary festival, “Festival & Co”, featuring readings by Will Self, Martin Amis, Fatima Bhutto, David Hare, and Hanif Kureishi. Sitting outside the shop taking in the atmosphere, next to me was, corduroy trouser wearing Joe, from Scotland, who was writing a page for his obligatory autobiography. Countless aspiring writers and literary nomads have found a temporary shelter there over the years, sleeping on makeshift beds in the medieval building where every inch of space, even the staircase, is filled, covered, piled with books, books and more books.  Paperbacks, hardbacks, antique volumes,  at the tip of your fingers, sometimes just out of reach, a little too high up on the rickety old shelves.

A book a day was the rule, if you wanted to stay here for free, you had to read, read a lot, work for a few hours in the shop, and you had better write too… Over the years I have met, in the most improbable places people, that had at one point or another strayed into Shakespeare & Co.  Some are now established writers. . Some cursed him for his belligerence in forcing them to read authors they hated. On one occasion, George perched at the till, sneered at my choices and without any apology replaced them with Auster and Kurieshi. I remain grateful. In Bangkok, many years later, where I met my girlfriend, our very first conversation was about the year she studied in Paris and worked at Shakespeare & Company. For her 21st birthday, George handed over the keys to his apartment above the shop joyously announcing that on this momentous occasion she should “wake up to pancakes, three cats and the Notre Dame”…

In 1997, for my 21st birthday, I got my first 35mm camera, joined the university’s photo-club & started experimenting in the darkroom. One of the first things I did was photograph George and the bookshop.  This was the first roll I ever processed myself, the results of which you see here…