The Heart of Paris

Visual artist Annabelle d’Huart and skateboarder-videographer Kaissan Ibrahima reflect on the beauty and complexity that define the city of light.


Paris is thousands of small villages stuck to one another. I've been here since I was 12. It’s a wonderful town because you can choose how to live. There is a full life in each small village.

I'm living in the center — it’s almost the oldest area of Paris. It’s just a dream. You have everything: all the bookshops, the best coffee, Café de Flore is not far — 10 minutes walking, and all the movie theaters. You can choose to see old movies or new ones. Paris is a place where you still go to the cinema.

My area is surrounded by teeny museums that don’t get so touristy, for example: Musée Delacroix. Going to see where the painter lived, you just stay 10 or 15 minutes and you feel good all day.

You have the river, which is a good size to cross. If you go to London, the Thames is too wide and it divides the town; Rome also. You have a wonderful sky in Paris. I don’t know if people know, but you have amazing sunsets and amazing clouds.

I walk a lot in Paris for many reasons. You always have a surprise and something to discover. A gate opens and there’s a garden. All the passages couverts (covered passages) built in the nineteenth century are still here, and they’re so poetic. You enter through a small door and you’re suddenly in another place. It’s a tender, Paris. That’s what I like. You have small things that remain.

I’m not nostalgic, but living here is a mixture of different centuries. You have a beautiful seventeenth-century museum, like Musée Picasso, and suddenly you go to the sixteenth century, and then the twentieth century. You can make a choice to be living in time and space as you like. My place is all eighteenth century, and it’s like listening to Bach. You can be out hearing a very good new DJ somewhere, and you’re happy about listening to that. But then, you come home, and it’s like hearing Bach again. It moves your brain in a different way.

As an artist, I can find my silence to be able to work, my concentration. You have huge multinational galleries coming to Paris now, but as a small artist, you survive, like a small light. Pasolini once said, you will always need little lucciole, fireflies. He says you can have big lights — airports, billboards, so much light that you can’t even see anymore — but you’ll still need candles and firelight, small artists: lucciole.

Kaissan Ibrahima

I’ve moved quite a lot, but I grew up partly in the suburbs — two hours outside of Paris. It was almost a village — small, boring. I would go on the weekends to the city. It would be very intense with so much happening — and so cool. From my point of view, it was crazy.


I would go to the Place de la République, where there’s a lot of life. It was diverse, it was intense, it was young. It’s the center for a lot of things — if you skate, you go there. It’s symbolic. République has a big roundabout. It’s designed in a nice, very social way.

It’s also a good place to skate — the ground is smooth and they put trees with ledges around them. And there’s a sense of community in a way. If they don’t know you, they don’t like you. They wouldn’t really accept everyone. Then with time, they start to see who you are, see your face because you’re there every day. You become part of the group. At the same time, there was something happening every day that was different. People would put out a big speaker and play salsa and dance — it’s cute on spring, summer nights.

When I started coming to Paris, there were protests every weekend and things seemed to change and the government would respond to the protests. French people are known to protest. And now it seems like, especially this summer, there are more protests, but there’s less change happening. What is it that we have to do to have our voices heard? Sometimes here it can feel like chaos and not much else. But I think if we had a bit more community as I had back in République, things would be better.

People come to Paris because they have an idea or a project they want to do — different backgrounds, a different life, a different view, and they bring it here. As an example, in a neighborhood like Montmartre, it is very, very diverse because on one side, there are just houses and nothing happening. And then there’s a whole section filled with fashion kids from so many different places buying fabrics at the fabric stores. In the same neighborhood, from one street to another, the ambiance can change.

If I go on a walk or a bike ride around the river or Père Lachaise Cemetery, it can put me in a really good mood. It makes me want to create things and be optimistic about the future because there’s just so much beauty and history and depth. I like to look to the past mostly — that’s a lot of what inspires me. Here, you’re always going to find something to explore.

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Our Contributors

Alex Frank Writer

Alex Frank is a contributing editor at Departures. Based in Manhattan, Frank previously worked at as deputy culture editor. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, GQ, Pitchfork, New York Magazine, Fantastic Man, and the Village Voice.

Max Farago Photographer

Max Farago first rose to prominence when Carine Roitfeld, then editor of Paris Vogue, became aware of his work, leading him to become a regular contributor for the magazine. In the proceeding years, Farago’s work has been featured in a magazines such as Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, Arena Homme +, Another, Dazed, The New Yorker and The New York Times.

Hannes Hetta Stylist

A Swedish native living in Paris, Hetta began his career styling at French Vogue and by the age of 23, moved on to serve as fashion editor of Vogue Hommes International. He has since contributed to a list of publications including W Magazine, Double, Acne Paper, and Vogue Italia.


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