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Paris, After

A chronicler of Chicago’s violence finds himself in the middle of a new crime scene abroad

Jon Lowenstein is no stranger to crime scenes. As an award-winning photojournalist, South Shore resident, and dedicated South Side documentarian, Lowenstein has snapped thousands of images that capture the chaos, disorder, and heartbreak that haunt communities in the wake of violence.

It was by happenstance that Lowenstein—who was attending Paris Photo— found himself in Paris on Friday, November 13, when ISIS terrorists killed 129 people at six sites. “I had only been to Paris for one day my entire life before I came this week,” says Lowenstein, who extended his stay an extra week after the events unfolded. “I was on a boat for a Paris Photo book party when I found out. I didn’t cover much that night because I didn’t know where to go, but I began covering the aftermath the next morning. It was just surreal.”

Lowenstein spent the next five days walking the streets of Paris taking photos of the memorials, mourners, and the crime scenes. The stirring photos are reminiscent of the South Side crime scene images by Lowenstein that this magazine ran in the 2013 feature “In the Shadow of the Gun.” “What I’ve been taken aback by is the emotion shown here,” says Lowenstein. “In Chicago, people in dominant, wealthy communities are used to the violence being somewhere else. But in Paris, the violence happened at the center. It feels like a bubble has been burst.”

Here, eight of Lowenstein’s Paris images and the stories behind them.

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I took this image the first morning after, while just walking around [in Canal Saint Martin near both Le Petit Cambodge restaurant and Le Carillon bar, the sites of two deadly attacks], photographing, and trying not to bother people. The neighborhood is structurally interesting; it feels very walled-in and very tight-knit. As I walked around, people were having these very private, intimate moments in the street where they would hug or they would kiss or cradle each other. There was this feeling of tension and shock.  Photo: Jon Lowenstein
 
I photographed like 15 different bullet holes and bullet scars in the walls at Le Carillon. Each hit the wall or glass a little bit differently and had a different trajectory. The hole is a reminder that there were people sitting there who got killed. It’s terrible.  Photo: Jon Lowenstein
 
It was strange visiting the sites of the attacks on Saturday morning because there was still blood on the streets. That made me think of Chicago. When I photograph crime scenes, I’ll sometimes still see the blood there. It’s disturbing.  Photo: Jon Lowenstein
 
This is a group of tourists who were unable to get into Notre Dame the Sunday after the attacks. They’re trying to figure out what to do next. All public, municipal, and government buildings were closed as part of the state of emergency that stays in effect even today.  Photo: Jon Lowenstein
 
This man, a kind of straight-laced guy with his hand-written sign, just stood there on the street. The sign reads: “From the attacks on Beirut and Paris without forgetting the Tunisian shepherd who was killed, humanity is united in suffering and must unite to combat terrorism. Peace to their souls. O.S.” It’s a simple message, but it’s such a powerful one.  Photo: Jon Lowenstein
 
I love that people responded with different kinds of art. At the Place de la République, there were people giving free hugs, creating chalk drawings and paintings, reciting poetry and singing songs. Paris is really using creativity to heal and to mourn.  Photo: Jon Lowenstein
 
This was taken early Saturday morning at Place de la Republique. This was right at the beginning of the memorial, so there were very few people there. If you look at the pictures of the statue now, the memorial and crowds have grown an insane amount. You couldn’t make this picture now.  Photo: Jon Lowenstein
 
A police barricade was set up in front of the Bataclan [the concert hall that was riddled with bullets killing 89 and wounding more than 200] in order to keep people out of the crime scene. It’s pretty far—a block or two from the Bataclan—so people started to put the shrine together right there. It was quiet. That space between the mourners and the shrine was almost sacred. Over the last few days, the shrine has just grown, getting bigger and bigger. In terms of size, it reminded me of when Jennifer Hudson’s mother, brother, and nephew were killed. That was the biggest shrine I ever saw in Chicago.  Photo: Jon Lowenstein

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