Mario Forte plays the violent

We met outside the back door of 59 Rivoli, which means we met on Two Balls Street: La rue des Deux Boules. I had just photographed him playing violin, he was the closing performance of a 3-day jazz festival, but we wouldn’t have spoken if he hadn’t been standing with pianist Tony Tixier, because I’m shy and he resembles Rasputin.


Earlier that day, Tony had walked in yelling, “Who is Danielle Voirin?!?!” which meant he’d seen my blog. I was posting the day’s best photos from the festival and I guess he was either impressed or surprised to see the emotion he expresses while playing.

When he saw me leaving through the back door, he introduced me to Mario as “a really good photographer,” bless his heart, and we became friends.

Many of my favorite Parisians are nomads who keep a foot in town but create/perform/show much of their work elsewhere. Like the center of a wheel with spokes going all over the planet, it’s a city of fortuitous intersections. It’s comfortable, beautiful, geographically practical, but missing an edge, a creative grit that, if you need and can’t manage to keep a hold of here, you have to get elsewhere and bring back with you.
This is what I feel Mario Forte does. You can feel it on him when he comes back to town. And it’s always fresh, because he’s always in motion. Based in Paris, born in Italy, teaching in Lausanne, gigging anywhere and everywhere (Mexico, New York, Paris, Berlin, Lisbon, Austria, Germany), and sometimes recharging in Morocco.
What I appreciate about Mario, in addition to his incredible talent and diversity in musical collaboration, is that he’s really happy to be here, to be alive, exploring, composing, connecting people, and collaborating. He’s right now, in the present moment. not afraid to jump, a person who lives in the river, rather than watching from the banks.

In one of our first conversations about music, I said if I could do anything other than photography, I would be a musician. He then told me that every one of his friends who practices other creative arts all want to be musicians. But perhaps it’s just human nature, music is so connected to our emotions.

One night, talking about jazz over his home-made tagine, I commented on the lack of female jazz musicians. Many singers, not so many musicians. We were listening to Charlie Mingus, there was a solo and he said, “really, can you imagine a woman playing this?” Yes, it was hard to imagine, but a woman would play something very different, something striking in other ways, ways we haven’t heard yet.

Mario showed up in a dream once. In wondering what my mind was using him as a symbol of, I decided to draw a tarot card on the question. I got The Fool card. I’m a tarot novice, but know the Fool is the spontaneous, free-spirited child within us, creative and unafraid. It’s the way we are in the world before life teaches us to build protective walls around our unlimited potential.

Still, I wanted more info on the card and went to my favorite resource,, and found some phrases that rather closely describe how I see Mario :

The Fool :
– Is all about new experiences, personal growth, development and adventure.
– Encourages you to believe in yourself and follow your heart no matter how crazy or foolish your impulses may seem.
– Lives a carefree life, free from worry and anxiety. He does not seem to mind if he does not really know what lies ahead.
– Enhances courage, risk-taking and the creative expression needed to open up new areas in your life.
– Is about to step off a cliff into the material world.

I think Mario jumped early in life and has been flying ever since.

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Liberté d’expression !

This story needs no introduction. Last night I was at Place de la Republique, taking some photos for Planet Waves.

Place de la République.  January 7, 2015.

Place de la République. January 7, 2015.

When I went back a second time (the shooting, the assembly, it’s all in my neighborhood) the crowds were a little smaller, maybe a few thousand people. They were yelling “Liberté d’expression, liberté des crayons!” and “Je suis Charlie, Je suis Charlie!”

Then, a man standing on the statue shouted “SHHHHHHH!” and asked us all for a minute of silence to honor the fallen police officers. Since getting thousands of people to be quiet can be complicated, after maybe 5 minutes, the info made its way around and the Place de la Republique was pretty darn quiet. Quite remarkable.

Except this one guy, who continued to speak, explaining that he didn’t see why we should have a minute of silence for them, they’re police officers, it’s their job, etc. He kept going on and on, in a calm, monotonous, but very loud voice. The only voice talking. A few people shushed him and then some guy shouted, pretty violently, “TA GEULE!” (“SHUT UP!!”) And then, we heard the voice of a young woman cry out “Liberté d’expression, liberté d’expression!”

That got a laugh, then some hand-holding and about 30 seconds of silence.

I have never seen such an enormous assembly of people in one place in Paris. And I’ve been to countless gatherings and protests. It reminded me of when I went to Daley Plaza in Chicago on September 12th, 2001, where I understood how powerful is the sound of thousands of people in silence and solidarity.

Place de la République, January 7th, 2015, about 6:30pm.  Assembly of Parisians in honor of those who died at the newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Place de la République, January 7th, 2015, about 6:30pm. Assembly of Parisians in honor of those who died at the newspaper Charlie Hebdo.