I have fallen in love with a dynamic city. I am in London. Who knew….
by Trishann Couvillion
4 December 2015
France is pretty spectacular. In ways that are lovely, amazing, frustrating and awe-inspiring. The pristine monuments and coastal lines, the mesmerizing food and beautiful broad streets to walk upon as well as the areas of the cities that are decrepit and full of neglect and debris. The French people who are kind and helpful and the ones that are callous and curt. The country if made up of what you may have heard and many things that you may never know of unless you experience it for yourself.
My current travels bring me to Europe for six months. Though because I was unwilling to go through the hassle of securing a travel visa before I left the states, I can only travel within the Schengen Zone for 90 days of the 180 days or so that I’ll be in Europe. So sadly, I will have to leave France and Italy in another month. And though my plan was to spend time in Croatia, Prague and the Czech Republic as well, the current migration and border issues as well as my lack of travel visa have made me change course. This is alright, mostly because I am an avid planner and I was hoping to loosen up a bit during my travels and become open to the unexpected. In that way, I have been blessed. France, Italy, England and now Scotland and Ireland are on the itinerary. Definitely excited about what is on my horizon.
As a documentary photographer it has been my dream for a number of years to head to Europe to not only explore and photograph but to find out more about my ancestry. I am half Native American and half French, though due to my parents not knowing much about our ancestors I never had much to go on. Well, thanks to what is now available in the way of online research I have been able to trace back my paternal ancestry almost 500 years to the Normandy Coast in the upper most northern part of France. The town of Rouen (where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431) and the small fishing village of Dieppe is where my ancestors hail since at least the mid 1500’s. As the first major port and what became the most important one in Europe at the time, my ancestors most likely built there lives around this industry.
A few weeks after arriving in Paris in October 2015, I took a trip by train to Dieppe to continue my research and walk the earth my ancestors roamed. Having been lucky enough to have met and spoke with a few local Dieppe historians who pointed me to a special area of their library for research on ancient family history. An older French gentleman who did not speak English and yet when he was able, after my basic French and well developed hand gestures, to deduce the reason why I was there, produced for me two original written registers from the two Catholic churches in Dieppe, St. Remy and St. Jacques cathedrals and I found that a number of my ancestors were married in them. To see their personal handwritten names as well as small paragraphs about themselves and their marriages was awesome. Between the 1500’s and the 1600’s my family grew in the area.
Jean Ango was also a well known Dieppe native and ship owner who is worth noting as he provided ships for King Francis I as well as for exploration around the globe. France colonized new territories around the globe because of his ships and the men who manned them. My 7x great grandfather Adrien Quevillon was born in 1641 in nearby Rouen, (where Joan of Arch was burned at the stake in 1431) and he was the first one to leave France in 1672 with the opportunity to leave aboard a ship to Montréal to work and help continue colonizing this area for France. After starting a business and then marrying a woman who was also originally from France, Jeanne Hunault, they started a family. Sadly the Iroquois took the family siege and scalped and killed Adrian and the following day one of his daughters, 12 year old François Angélique, was then burned alive while her mother and sister were forced to watch. His wife was then forced to accept the advances of one of the chiefs by whom she had a child, a son, who was born in 1698 and named Louis Augustin (Courval). After a time her other daughter, Catherine, was able to return to their people and then sent for her mother and her little brother. They lived the rest of their days amongst their family in Pointe-aux-Trembles Canada, working as ‘Cordiers’, rope makers.
Many other of my Quévillon ancestors lived their lives between the cities and in tiny country areas of Rouen and Dieppe, most likely working in the fishing industry. In the 16th and 17th centuries Dieppe had a population of at least 20,000 and today there is approximately 30,000 inhabitants so the city is still similar today as it has been for many years.
In the later part of the 18th century my 5x great grandfather Adrien Amable Couvillon (Quevillon), great grandson of Adrien Quévillon, migrated from Canada and down into New Orleans. And this is when our family name morphed from Quévillon to Couvillon and then later to Couvillion. There is still research to do to find the exact reason why our last name changed, though I assume it either had to do with the migration from Canada into the United States or the creole and cajun French surroundings of Louisiana.
As I continue to explore my family history it makes me even more curious about not only my paternal side but also my maternal ancestry and I look forward to the forensic challenge of finding all I can, including a trip to Salt Lake City and the Family Library which houses the most comprehensive collection of millions of worldwide records, in various forms, that relate to individuals and families.
Understanding the bigger picture of where my family comes from, where I come from and how we got to where we are today has broadened my reality. To realize you are a part of something greater, something living and breathing and continuing, is a strange and wonderful thing. The sobering affect it has had on my attitude and grasp of my life and how special and at the same time completely ordinary living is has been thought provoking. It has also helped me understand parts of myself that are deeply imbedded within my DNA. Finding that what makes me tick has some reason and rhythm behind it now. That sense of place has been life affirming for me and my curiosity drives me forward to discover all I can.
Sidenote for Couvillion family members: Here is a list of our ancestors so you can understand who are grandparents, great grandparents and great great grandparents were as well as our ancestors going back to the mid 1500’s in France:
(Something is amiss with Bertha’s death date and Heman Joseph’s birthdate…will update when I find out correct information)
(Additional wives names unknown to me-Joey, please send me info!)
If you are my relative, send me a Facebook message with your email address and I can add you to the Geni.com online account of our family tree, this way you can access more information and help me fill in missing details on some profiles, like photographs and correct birth, death and location information!
There are still aspects of information that are unclear so I will continue to refine this list and update their profiles online. Check back every few months on these links if you like!
Any mistakes are my own.
© Trishann Couvillion 2015 | No images to be used without written permission
2 December 2015
The café culture in Paris is a way of life. And this culture, if anything, sets apart the French from the rest of the world. A Parisian is going to stop into a café with someone or alone. They are going to sit down, light up a cigarette and order an espresso, beer or glass of wine. The will in no way be inclined to do anything other than take in the moment and watch people as they walk by. Not one of them will pull out a laptop or proceed to be ‘productive’. A French waiter will never bring you the check until you ask for it. Usually at least twice. You’re practically expected to wile away hours sipping and talking. This is why the Parisian café exists.
As an American I find it difficult to partake in this aspect of their culture. Not because I don’t enjoy espresso and people watching, because trust me, I do! It’s because I not only don’t speak the French language more than ‘un petit peu’, but I also don’t smoke. Add to the fact that I am highly allergic to cigarette smoke and there is no way to find a café where you are not bombarded with it the moment you sit down. This seemingly lovely cultural pass time is wherein lies the widest chasm for me. Even though my ancestry is from Northern France in the Normandy Coast that goes back over 500 years…Je suis Américaine, Je ne suis pas Française.
Relationships between people in France seem very intimate. The double kiss upon greeting, as well as depature. The closeness of couples in public. The sense of comfortability in who they are and how they interact with one another is apparent. Within cities, there are large amounts of individuals who keep to themselves, but those who partake in engaging with others have a welcoming atmosphere to connect.
As an American I do hope to find a way to let the inspiration of French café culture make a difference in how I approach my day to day life. My favorite way to breathe and take a moment is to go for a walk. A walk around my neighborhood, a walk around the lake, a stroll through the city, venturing out when I travel and walking all over the place. That is my favorite way to experience life, though I have to say for the most part it is very solitary. Making a shift in how I spend my free time is something I feel as though I need to do to start letting people back into my life.
The Paris café of yesteryear still graces the essence of the modern day café. Enjoy it if you can!
©2015 Trishann Couvillion | Images not to be used without permission
Paris, France – During and after the terrorist attacks.
13-16 of November 2015
This is a personal account of my own experience in the wake of the Paris Terrorist Attacks that took place on 13 November 2015 and the days following. I am a photojournalist currently living in Paris, Montmartre the 18th arrondissement, for a few months and am originally from the United States in Seattle, Washington. I had been living in Paris less than 6 weeks when the attacks occurred. A few days after the attacks it was also confirmed that a car rented by one of the terrorists was found parked a few blocks from where I’m living. Officials believe plans were aborted to also stage an attack in the 18th arrondissement. Any informational mistakes are mine alone.
On any given day in Paris the city is bustling with people. On their way to work, going into and out of the train stations, some selling goods on the streets, others saying Bonjour to you as you pass by. But sadly Saturday 14 November 2015 was a day of mourning. Throughout a majority of the city almost no one is out this day and the streets lay quiet. This afternoon my friend and also a photographer, Adrian Funk and I went to the 11th and 10th arrondissements to see and photograph the aftermath of the prior nights terrorist attacks. Police had the areas barricaded, media was present and a handful of others were expressing bewilderment, taking photographs and leaving memorials of candles and flowers.
Shopkeepers and restaurant owners alike all throughout Paris have their storefronts closed up. Only a deep and overwhelming fear could push these lively people into the safety of their homes, to dwell on what had happened the night prior. And to dwell on the notion that not one of us knew what today would bring. Usually as Saturday turns into evening in Paris it brings abundant and lively energy to every café and boulevard across the city. But this evening there was no laughter. There was no plume of cigarette smoke wafting away from little café tables usually filled with people talking and laughing and drinking and smoking. The weather had been cool all day, the tube held almost no passengers and the streets are dry and silent into the night. The beautiful external lights were no lit like usual around the Sacré Coeur Cathedral just 200 meters to the left of my flat in Montmartre, the 18th arrondissement of Paris. A silent yet laconic essence that portrays the mournful hearts of those who abide here hangs heavy in the air.
Less than twenty four hours ago terror forced it’s way through the city. Men with absolute hatred in their heart, in united force began to take the lives of innocent people using machine guns and suicide vests. As word of the terrorist attacks quickly spread through social media, people quickly started vacating the streets. Over a number of areas, some close and some far from the city centre, terrorists laid claim to the lives of at least 129 people while injuring upwards of 380 more. Lives were ended during brief and brutal moments of invasion. Swift, abrupt, relentless, merciless. Men and women were executed, point blank, for no other reason than to prove a point. Fear and blood were used to cause awe, shock and terror from the twisted beliefs of just a few.
Sunday morning brought with it blue sky and the sun. It felt like a kiss from heaven after the sheer terror and confusion of the last 36 hours. Though the people of the city still did not come out. The few on the streets were mostly visiting from anywhere else, including myself. This isn’t our home that was just fired upon. It’s easier to walk down the street when you know every one of your tomorrows won’t be a reminder of the death that knocked at your door. Senseless and astounding, it’s difficult to grasp the why. Why did it have to happen this way? Why did they have to kill and injure so many? Why did they have a belief that was so strong that death seemed to be a way to prove it? Why?
As Monday came and the people of Paris had no choice but to come out from behind their shaded windows and warm, safe homes to make their way to work with sullen hearts and yet a knowing that life had to continue to move forward even if their hearts yet had not. Aside from the media, no one talks about it yet. The shock has not worn off. The confusion has not yet rendered itself. Acceptance is not yet a part of reality. My guess is that sadness will slowly begin to turn into rage. Love for a city and a country will cause some individuals to stand up and fight. War in many ways and on many levels is inevitable. It could be the war of retaliation. French bombs on Syria. War of race and religion. It could also be an individual war, a resistance of fear. A fierce determination to not let the enemy win, to not let them take away our freedom to live our lives without fear. A strong desire to freely walk down the street, to meet up with loved ones, to enjoy time out again. A desire to feel human without a sodden grip of terror.
It’s Monday evening now. The sky has finally allowed itself to shed tears over Paris. The dark night and delicate rain are showing their solemn allegiance. Broken hearts, crushed dreams, devastated families and a heartbroken city, all for naught.
And yet, some Parisians are determined not to waste hatred on terrorism!
27 October 2015
It’s no wonder. Paris is full of people in love. In love with the old Parisian buildings, cobblestone streets and corner cafés. The magnificent monuments, the penchant for history, beautiful art and a beautiful language. Yet as I begin my stay in Paris, where I will be for almost two full months, I immediately began to also see the Paris of daily life. Tunnels and tunnels of commuter trains running over 4 full floors underground, hundreds of stairs and walkways between transfers. A literal labyrinth of the complex and masterful foresight of French urbanization that in actuality was first implemented in Paris beginning in 1900 and is referred to as “Le Métropolitain“. The design and structure is forefather to what we now consider all urban transportation in major cities throughout the world. This Paris is very different from the scene under the Eiffel Tower where there is an abundance of tourists welding selfie sticks galore, gawking at the iconic symbol that in most foreigners minds has come to symbolize a sense of mystique, European culture and a nod to something almost otherworldly. Yet in the truest sense this city is a bustling, full tilt, densely populated metropolitan area and to miss this madness would be a shame. Visit an arrondissement that is at least two train rides away from where you’re staying and take time to view the subway train maps inside the stations and allow yourself time to find your way through this labyrinth and you will allow yourself to experience this city like a true Parisian. Making your way through the city as Parisians do is a good and inexpensive way to discover all of these famous streets and grande monuments, like the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe.
Paris as a city is truly dynamic. To view the history as well as the chaos of modern city life is enchanting and disturbing all at once. When using the trains you rarely wait more than 2-3 minutes as they run constantly, so you can briskly and rather easily make your way across the city. And yet, a number of areas of the city are so full of debris and discarded items that it literally makes you question the inhabitants. Tourists flock here and yet the many who live here, from all different cultures, seem to take the city for granted. There is a lack of respect for this old city that is very much apparent. It makes for interesting day to day living.
A few months before heading to Europe a good friend gave me a book called ‘How Paris became Paris‘ by author Joan DeJean. It was a wonderful book for me to read just before I was going to spend an extended amount of time in Paris. The history of the city including royalty and common people who’s thinking shaped this city and brought it from a medieval city to a modern city starting in the 17th century with widened streets, at first candle lit by shop merchants and then lit with street lamps so that the city became the first of it’s kind to be safer for people to walk and enjoy and conduct business in, even after dark.
The history of the bridges in the city that crossed the Seine River and allowed royalty and commoners alike to stroll the streets and enjoy the vibrance of this city as it was growing and changing is an important one. Paris was becoming a city of happenings and everyone wanted a place to bear witness. These bridges became their places of pastime.
From the decree of kings over the centuries many monuments were built. So much history is evident in France and to view these is to appreciate the process. Paris first began to prosper as a bustling city, thanks in part to the construction of the Pont Neuf, which means ‘new bridge’. This new bridge was built to ease strain and overload on the Pont Notre-Dame. Pont Neuf became a place to see and be seen, to watch street performers and also feel the thrill of opportunists who were looking to pickpocket and cause ruckus. There were gangs and murderers hiding in and around the bridge even before it was finished being built and it had it’s own set of gallows as well. And of course there was a lively trade of prostitution. The Pont Neuf bridge was known as the center of Paris life for many years.
As inhabitants began to enjoy the city as a means of entertainment as well as living, Paris prospered. Others began to travel to Paris because of their growth in textiles and fashion so they could partake in the aura it began to embody. This and many other aspects have lead to medieval Paris becoming present day Paris. To watch Parisians going about their every day lives and yet to know how many have come before them is a delight to take in. When you find yourself amongst a throng of tourists, continue to walk. Get a ways away from the chaos and look back at it from a less crowded perspective. Then you really see the sights in all their glory. And I will continue to observe them myself and enjoy for a while longer.
And I have missed you. Since we last spoke so many things have happened in my life. My prior musings here began just after I had moved to New Orleans around Halloween 2012. My time there was wonderful, albeit it brief. Luckily, I was recently in NOLA for Jazz Fest 2015 ….and to celebrate my upcoming 40th birthday with friends! It was fun! Bourbon & Blues baby!
The reason I have been quiet is that many things, some rather traumatic things have happened since I moved back to Seattle around the beginning of 2013. I landed a full time medical photography job which was wonderful and intense and challenging as I was training in some additional technologies I hadn’t worked with before. I was dating someone who I had grown deeply in love with and yet was rather overwhelmed by as well. After awhile it was best we end our relationship due to the hurtful nature that our relationship had taken, which was difficult but necessary. And in the summer of 2013, just 3 week after purchasing my very first brand new car, I was involved in an auto accident where a semi-truck hit three automobiles and totaled my new car. It only had 675 miles on it. AND it happened while I was on my way to the airport to fly to Long Beach, California for a 4-day weekend to celebrate my birthday. My injuries were ones that progressed after the day of the accident and have altered my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined.
Within a few weeks after the accident I started to experience horrific, jolt-awake-half-scared-to-death nightmares revolving around the accident. Giant heavy things falling out of the sky and almost crushing me, hard heavy objects slamming into me. One nightmare consisted of reliving my actual car accident, but I was standing right next to the back of my car as it was smashed into. Another involved a gigantic tarantula as it made it’s way into my bedroom, leapt up onto my furniture and then just as it was turning to jump down onto my bed and about to pounce on me, I was abruptly startled awake…Thankfully! So, maybe not surprisingly, I began to lose a lot of sleep. I soon started seeing a psychologist and she diagnosed me with PTSD. As I was losing more and more sleep my full-time medical photography job was getting harder and harder to focus on. Exhaustion was causing my life to fall apart. Three months after the accident I broke down at work one afternoon, having locked myself in the camera room and bawled my eyes out for awhile. I talked with my manager that afternoon and I had to have my hours reduced. Then sadly, five months after the accident I was laid off. So here I was, beyond exhausted, in a tremendous amount of pain, overwhelmed and afraid for my present and future. Anxiety, depression and pain and fear are an awful combo. Yeah, I would say looking back that not only was that afternoon of the accident an awful one, but I had no idea how much that car accident, that one instance, would change the scope of my life for the next 21+ months and counting.
And now, here we are coming close to two years post accident and I am still having to take my life day by day and am still figuring out how to balance earning a living while, dealing with ongoing chronic back pain and getting all the rest my body still literally demands!!
Well, as an ode to allowing myself to envision my life moving forward and to stay true to my dreams I decided a few months ago that since my 40th birthday is approaching and for years I’ve been saving for a ‘trip of a lifetime’ to celebrate, I have made a point to buy a one way ticket to Paris and I leave October 5th! Yay! I am coming back, I just haven’t fully decided exactly when yet. I hope to spend a number of months photographing through some of the most beautiful cities and countries within the Europe while writing and blogging about my experiences. Dreaming about and planning this trip has been such a boost to my state of mind. It has allowed me to smile and enjoy the process of thinking about it and the much needed joy of anticipating it. It has given me something to look forward to. So, all that being shared I would like to invite you to subscribe to my blog so that while I am in Europe you can see what I have been up to, where I have been and share a bit in the experiences that I am sure to have. Photography and writing are two things I truly feel drawn to do and yet have had to be put to the wayside because of the last few years of my life. One day. One day has become my daily mantra as I struggle through trying to feel like myself again. One day is becoming today. It is time to feel like myself again and I am doing everything I can to get back to that place.
Alvin Youngblood Hart. This musician was one of the reasons that an initial interest in photographing the Blues back in 2001 became a life long passion. When I first heard, photographed and met him back in San Francisco one night when he played at Biscuits & Blues, I knew I was starting to fall deep into a new realm of music and photographic interest for myself. His style of gritty, old-style blues is haunting and intensely weaved with stories of the past. Alvin along with blues musician Otis Taylor solidified a new obsession for me with the Blues. I began photographing present day blues musicians and developed a desire to understand the history of this american style of music.
Check out a short video clip of his performance HERE
Youngblood Hart was born in Oakland, California and has family ties to Mississippi. Growing up he heard stories of blues musicians from the early to mid 1900’s, like Charley (Charlie) Patton, Lead Belly, Taj Mahal and others and the stories he heard inspired his interest in the genre of country blues. Seeking out blues musicians like him who play in New Orleans is the goal for my Blues documentary. This area of the South is known for the beginnings of Jazz, Zydeco and other styles of southern music and the blues has also been here a long time, but sort of underground. I’ve taken a deep interest in seeking out this genre of music and style of musician with the hopes of photographing their lasting legacy as an important part of american music history.
And New Orleans own Honey Island Swamp Band was the opening act and I just have to give a nod to them as well. Their music is very eclectic, funky, raw and their lyrics show an honesty that make it easy to relate and groove along. “The Honey Island Swamp Band has developed an original sound that fuses bluegrass, jazz, funk, reggae, and country. If someone asked me to do that, I would probably say that it was impossible.” – Kevin O’Day, neworleans.com
There was so much talent on this one stage that it made me happy and proud to be living here in New Orleans!