VIVE LE HUMAN TOUCH

If you love the World Cup, you love watching it in a bar or café with strangers… It’s the best excuse to share a joke and pass some pleasant words.

That’s because, despite its money and parasitic PR, something in the Coupe du Monde can’t be owned or packaged. Fans meet in each other’s restaurants, drink to each other’s players. Some make all it the way to games in other countries.

Through real encounters and real emotion they reach conclusions of their own about differences. Sometimes this show up the virtual, media versions.

But, at best, it can do more.

Our communication “tools” have us positioned as products. They insist that each of us has to be shown off, pimped, primped, “boosted”. They’re always whispering in our ears.

Yet no-one behind their version of modernity cares about individuals, groups or nations.

What they’ve built is now deformed, it’s ugly and bloated. Quietly, in many ways, it disfigures all of us. Despite all the promises and slogans, it’s heartless and divisive. Far from connecting people, it amplifies our worst qualities.

It’s no small thing that Les Bleus gave us a respite. Over four years, they’ve let us share moments bon and mauvais. Share them the way it counts – with other people. The joy that exploded was so huge because it was shared.

Every team, and their Russian hosts, contributed to it. (Certainly Croatia, who literally took our breath away). Liberté Egalité Mbappé, oui oui oui !

But long live the World Cup itself; there’s nothing like it.

Le RATP,  the Paris transport authority, spent the night on their homage: altering the name signs of six big stations. Photos of those © RATP; other photos by Steve Sampson

MAKING ART MATTER

I’ve never seen an art piece like it. Stretched over almost half a mile, it used simple tools: words, sound and colour. Yet it turned human hate and anger inside out to produce a silence filled with unexpected hope.

This was the French nation’s memorial to Simone Veil: the Auschwitz survivor who changed her country, legalising abortion and helping create the European Union. Veil, with her husband, was being buried in the Panthéon. It’s the highest honour France can bestow – but it’s awarded only decades after a death.

For Simone Veil, who died a year ago, Macron broke the tradition. He also asked cineaste David Teboul to make the event into art.

Carried by members of the presidential guard, the Veils’ flag-draped coffins were walked up a bright blue carpet. It was the colour of the European Union flag and covered the whole half-mile to the Pantheon. The coffins passed between enormous photos that were hiding speakers.

Those photos told the story of Veil’s life. Aged 14, she was a pretty student. But, by 16, she was a deportee – a Jew sent to die in Auschwitz by her own country. The number she became, 78651, is now engraved by her name in the Pantheon.

“With that number,” said the President, “all racial deportees, all those 78,500 Jews and gypsies deported by France enter the Pantheon.”

At each stop, those watching heard Veil’s own voice. It floated over the quartier, testifying and urging action. Yet we also heard her laugh and Macron’s speech reflected her complex character.

He hailed Veil’s battles for women, for remembrance of the Holocaust, for refugees and for a better, unified Europe. Her belief in Europe, he noted, came not “out of idealism but out of realism …not out of ideology but from her direct experience.”

All her battles, he noted, remain our own.

The coffins lay in state until 9:30 p.m. But, before the enormous doors swung open, the President asked for a moment of silence. If it was eloquent, the moment was hardly ordinary.

What we heard was Teboul’s recording of dawn breaking at Auschwitz. Captured a month before to the day, it filled the air with birdsong and rustling branches.

On her way to the death camp, Veil got glimpses of those icy trees along the route. They were, she always said, the only sight which reminded her beauty existed. This quote, reproduced in neon, illuminated her coffin.

Directly across, in the shadows of the nave, stood Teboul’s photo of the trees that bloom at Auschwitz.

President Macron’s discourse at the memorial (in French) is available here

WHEN PARIS LIVED IN THE STREET

She sees as if she were a poet – or perhaps a novelist. Her shots are poised and decisive, but they are never sentimental. When they were taken, she was a star. But, says Sabine Weiss, “they were just my recreation”.

That’s because her working day was crammed with commissions. As part of Rapho, one of the oldest photo agencies in Paris, Sabine Weiss did it all. “I photographed stars like Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Moreau. But I was also shooting ads and fashion and reporting”. Weiss flew to Russia to capture the Bolshoi ballerinas and to Manhattan to cover art openings. But the Paris streets remained at the heart of her work.

Born in Switzerland, Sabine Weber moved to Paris at 22. While an assistant to a fashion photographer, she met and married American painter Hugh Weiss. Their friends included names like Giacometti, Rauschenberg, Dubuffet and Stravinsky.

By 29, Weiss was showing work at MoMA; at 30, she was given a solo show.

She seized moments that others failed to even see, the glimpse that encapsulates a place or a time. Her Paris is a city of smoke, fog and shifting light, in age that was clearly individual.

If its streets and their inhabitants seem a little rougher, they are also much more open. “Attitudes were different,” says Weiss today. “Everyone lived in the street then. You woke up every day and went out to get your coffee. More happened in the streets. A woman could shop there by looking through shelves of casseroles. Or a man could get himself shaved…all in the street”.

Kids had no games at home, she noted, nor was there television. “We didn’t have all today’s distractions. People have lost that thirst for going out, for all those different encounters with one another. I was always going out to concerts or to a theatre. If not, after dinner Hugh and I would take a walk.”

Weiss approves of digital cameras because they are lighter and easier. “My commercial work was all in colour, so heavy and so complicated! There was always something that refused to work. That’s why I always did my personal work in black-and-white. Then I could just react and everything was intimate.”

Sharp, smart and funny, Weiss is now 93. She has plenty of perspective on her fame. “People like to call me a ‘humanist’. Well, that’s alright with me, I believe in humans. But our era was, commercially, very competitive. There was a certain jealousy that people ignore. Yet it really did exist.”

She recalled one colleague who blocked a rival’s Rolleiflex. “These were old ‘two-view’ cameras and he slipped a piece of paper over the shooting lens. His friend could see through the viewfinder, so he never realised …”.

Weiss remains down-to-earth; she won’t ever call herself an artist. “I’m an artisan, the witness of those things I’ve seen”. But there is one thing about previous eras she regrets and it’s the access photographers enjoyed. “If I saw a closed door, I would just open it. If a sign read ‘Artist’s Entrance’, I would just go in that way. I’ve always been curious”.

These days, she says, everyone is conscious of their image (“Everyone!”). But there’s still plenty for her to see in the Paris streets. “People, for instance, tend to photograph at own eye level. But when you move around, if you go up four or five floors then a look – the story is different.”

All photos © Sabine Weiss, all rights reserved; photo 3 of Madame Weiss in her atelier in 1955 by High Weiss © Sabine Weiss, all rights reserved

Sabine Weiss at the Centre Georges Pompidou runs until 15 October. Until 28 July, you can also see her work at Les Douches La Galerie at 5, rue Legouvé in the 10th