In memory of my father

Mis à jour le 23 juin 2015 par Michel PuechMichel Puech publie dans La lettre de la photographie, lettre quotidienne en français et en anglais.


50 years ago, Algeria won its independence after a long, deathly war. In order to face up to the Algerian nationalists’ insurrection, the French army called upon former colonial troops and their auxiliaries to create the “harkas”. They were referred to as “harkis”.

In July, 1962, the French shamefully abandoned them, tens of thousands of them, often to their death. Nearly 30,000 harkis, their wives and children were repatriated to France where they settled in what were referred to as “forest dwellings”, for the government hired them to clean the forests and fight fires.

In 1973, my father Jean Puech, an amateur photographer and correspondent for the Fotolib press agency, the first agency of the young French daily Libération, made a reportage that was never published. In 2007, when he died, I put some of those pictures on a website. How suprising to be contacted by several people.

One Sunday afternoon, Ali Sémir called me: “You have a picture of me on a tricycle… I am now 45 years old!” Then other children, now adults, recognized a father or a lost friend. A few weeks ago, Salah and Boukmis Brahimm Bounab, two sons of harkis, one of whom is on the municipal council of La Londe-les-Maures, organized an exhibition of my father’s pictures and some archival documents. Everyone who loves photography knows what an event it can be to meet up with people photographed long ago. Sometimes it happens in the courts, such as for Robert Doisneau’s “Baiser de l’Hôtel de Ville”. Most often, it is the chance to share emotions and sometimes create friendships.

At La Londe-les-Maures on March 10, it was an incredible day!