At the peak of the Covid pandemic in 2020, Australian-born photojournalist Tony Maniaty, based in Paris and Sydney, documented the life of the French people as they tackled their greatest crisis in a generation. As part of the 2021 Head On Photo Festival, with support from The Kirribilli Centre and the North Sydney Council, a solo exhibition of his Paris photographs will be held at The Kirribilli Centre Gallery, North Sydney, from 14 November-5 December.
Against the graphic news coverage of the pandemic, Maniaty’s evocative monochrome images step back to capture the human rhythms and hopes of ordinary Parisians, showing their optimism and fortitude, while portraying another remarkable chapter in their history. Taken across a cityscape devoid of tourists and busy traffic, a view not unlike the Paris of the 1950s, his images also recapture the spirit of French post-war street photography, inspired by masters like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau, with their unique visual style and ethos of shared humanity.
“While the media focused on the bleak impact of Covid-19,” says Maniaty, “I wanted to document another side of the crisis and the city – the quiet strength of the Parisians as they went about their lives, happy to reclaim the streets of Paris, in this historic moment of calm and reflection, as their own. I set out to capture fragments of this rare period, gentle and brittle, less about loss than discovery, less about gloom than optimism. I followed Doisneau’s dictum of never wanting to ridicule his subjects, so between each photograph ran an invisible thread, of human dignity. In that way, every person touched the next.”
“This difficult, confronting year allowed us to discover what was ephemeral and what mattered, and why family and friends and community counted more than ever. If we were open to it, 2020 was a doorway to love, a reaffirmation of what being alive is really about. One summer morning as I was leaving the local boulangerie, I commented to the owner that Paris had become a ghost town. ‘Oui’, she called out, cheerily. ‘The bars and cafes are closed, monsieur, but our hearts are still open!’”
Please check with the venue for up to date information about COVID-19 restrictions before visiting.
Tony Maniaty spent two years based in Paris as SBS Television’s European Correspondent, and 2020 living in Provence and the French capital. As well as photojournalism, his professional career has included broadcast journalism, writing fiction, and Associate Professor of Creative Practices at The University of Technology, Sydney. His work has been published in numerous magazines and newspapers worldwide.
List your exhibition or photography event on our site to reach out to the Australian photographic community. Australia's only listing of photographic exhibitions and events.