Why Notre Dame will live forever | Toronto real life family photographer
The fire burning and churning in the belly of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris hit me like a punch to the stomach when I saw it on the news. My family — we were just there. Well, relatively speaking: last September, but in the span of my life that is yesterday. We spent a beautiful Parisian morning in the glow of the great lady: lazily strolling around her perimeter eating pastries and warming our skin in the French fall sun. We took photographs — legacies now — because iconic places still hold a major pull on me. Those rare magnificent gems in the world that live up to every ounce of hype.
But to watch history burn and crumble before your eyes feels personal; heart-wrenching. Like we’ve let down the caretakers who’ve tended to 800 years of importance and symbolism. Gone. Or significantly gone. I know I’m far away from Paris today. But for me, it’s these shared losses of great historical significance that are my lost rock stars; my architectural celebrity stricken with grief.
When I was in grade 12 we took a class trip to New York City and took a ferry ride out to Staten Island one bright sunny morning. Sitting at the back of the boat, I snapped a few photos of the NY skyline. Dull, all buildings. Too much water. But right there in the middle of that grey blue boring skyline are two larger-than-life skyscrapers reaching for the sky. The twin towers. Just two towers at the time. Not just two towers anymore.
That photograph was a moment in time. Boring — or so I thought — but I’ve come back to look at it a number of times since 9/11 and am always grateful I took it. Because this is why photography matters. It can freeze time. It is a daily documenter of the things we take for granted. It exists long after things that don’t exist anymore are gone. It reminds us — in the case of the twin towers — that things can exist, then they cannot, then, eventually, they can be born again. Maybe different. Maybe better. But born again.
There have been a lot of great fires. Wars. Bad decisions. Misplaced ideals. History is exactly what has happened and today, new history was made. This fire is a place in time. We saw the beautiful Notre Dame as millions have seen her for years. Today, people saw her the way no one has ever seen her in our lifetime. And a year from now we will see her in yet another new light. In the City of Light.
Pull out your old Paris travel photos — this is a day of mourning but also of remembering. Notre Dame from yesterday will live forever in our photographs. And from here on in we watch the great rebuild. The great resiliency of one of my favourite cities as she grapples with a loss that has cut to the bedrock of her soul.