Paris, May 1968 — a view from the barricades by Gökşin Sipahioğlu

Fifty years ago, as France exploded in mass protests, words scrawled on the walls of the Sorbonne summed up the revolutionary zeal of the time: “Run free, comrade, we’ve left the old world behind!”

Half a century later, the May 1968 demonstrations that brought millions of idealistic students and striking workers to the streets remain a watershed moment in France’s cultural history.

Sexual liberation, artistic creativity and anti-capitalism were the order of the day. For those who were there, it was an unforgettable time.

The protests swept through a France that was still ruled by the strict conservatism of Gen. Charles de Gaulle, who was then president and banned the concerts of French rocker Johnny Hallyday for causing scenes of mass hysteria.

The aftershocks of the protests would be felt for years to come. (AFP)

Gökşin Sipahioğlu, a Turkish photojournalist and one of the father figures of photojournalism, covered news stories from the 1956 war in the Sinai Peninsula to Mao’s revolution in China, the Cuban missile crisis, the 1972 Munich Olympics killings, and the Prague Spring and Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.

As a correspondent for the Turkish daily Hürriyet, he came to Paris to cover the May 1968 student uprising. While many photojournalists were on the streets, Gökşin brought his curiosity, audacity, uncanny anticipation of events, and keen eye to the frontlines to freshly illuminate the quickly unfolding events. He remarked at the time:

“At first I did not understand what was going on. For hours on the first day of rioting the police allowed the students to do as they liked. The students wrecked everything, ripped up paving stones, chopped down trees, erected barricades, set cars on fire. Later, in a matter of minutes, the CRS [riot police] charged the students. I asked myself, ‘Why hadn’t they charged earlier?’ I soon understood why. The authorities wanted the public to see the devastation.”

While in Paris, Gökşin realized that a network was sorely needed for distribution of news photos, and he founded Sipa Press photo news agency in 1973 with American journalist Phyllis Springer. Encouraging young photographers and giving many their first chance, Gökşin created a generation of photojournalists.

Photography by Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA

“May 68, photographs by Gökşin Sipahioğlu,” is on view at Galerie Basia Embiricos and Photo 12 Galerie in Paris through May 25, 2018. It was curated by Ferit Duzyol in collaboration with Sipa Press. 

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<p>A police officer confronts defiant students on the Boulevard Saint-Michel during the first day of violent clashes in Paris on May 6, 1968. In all, 1,045 civilians were wounded during what became known as “the night of the barricades.” (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA) </p>
Paris, May 1968 — a view from the barricades

A police officer confronts defiant students on the Boulevard Saint-Michel during the first day of violent clashes in Paris on May 6, 1968. In all, 1,045 civilians were wounded during what became known as “the night of the barricades.” (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA)

<p>A wounded student is transported by first aid workers during riots on the Boulevard Saint-Michel in Paris, May 6, 1968. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA) </p>
Paris, May 1968 — a view from the barricades

A wounded student is transported by first aid workers during riots on the Boulevard Saint-Michel in Paris, May 6, 1968. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA)

<p>On the first day of violence during student riots, a young woman challenges shield-bearing CRS police in a cloud of tear gas at Place Mabillon on the Boulevard Saint-Germain in Paris, May 6, 1968. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA) </p>
Paris, May 1968 — a view from the barricades

On the first day of violence during student riots, a young woman challenges shield-bearing CRS police in a cloud of tear gas at Place Mabillon on the Boulevard Saint-Germain in Paris, May 6, 1968. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA)

<p>Armed riot police prepare for confrontation with student protesters on the Boulevard Saint Germain, Paris, May 6, 1968. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA) </p>
Paris, May 1968 — a view from the barricades

Armed riot police prepare for confrontation with student protesters on the Boulevard Saint Germain, Paris, May 6, 1968. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA)

<p>A student, among the many injured during confrontations with police, is given assistance in Paris on May 6, 1968. Striking students erected the first street barricades at the Place Maubert, and then 30,000 people marched from the Place Denfert-Rochereau until they were stopped by CRS riot police. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA) </p>
Paris, May 1968 — a view from the barricades

A student, among the many injured during confrontations with police, is given assistance in Paris on May 6, 1968. Striking students erected the first street barricades at the Place Maubert, and then 30,000 people marched from the Place Denfert-Rochereau until they were stopped by CRS riot police. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA)

<p>“The night of the barricades” resulted in a violent conflict between CRS riot police and thousands of striking students. Numerous police and students were injured in the clash in the Mabillon area on Boulevard Saint Germain, Paris, May 6, 1968. (Photograph by Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA) </p>
Paris, May 1968 — a view from the barricades

“The night of the barricades” resulted in a violent conflict between CRS riot police and thousands of striking students. Numerous police and students were injured in the clash in the Mabillon area on Boulevard Saint Germain, Paris, May 6, 1968. (Photograph by Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA)

<p>A May ’68 poster is seen on a wall of the School of Oriental Languages, Rue de Lille, Paris, May 7, 1968. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA) </p>
Paris, May 1968 — a view from the barricades

A May ’68 poster is seen on a wall of the School of Oriental Languages, Rue de Lille, Paris, May 7, 1968. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA)

<p>On the Quai d’Orsay at the Pont des Invalides, students come face-to-face with a baton-wielding riot policeman in Paris on May 7, 1968. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA) </p>
Paris, May 1968 — a view from the barricades

On the Quai d’Orsay at the Pont des Invalides, students come face-to-face with a baton-wielding riot policeman in Paris on May 7, 1968. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA)

<p>CRS riot police wielding shields and batons cross a barricade to charge striking students near the Sorbonne in Paris on May 10, 1968. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA) </p>
Paris, May 1968 — a view from the barricades

CRS riot police wielding shields and batons cross a barricade to charge striking students near the Sorbonne in Paris on May 10, 1968. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA)

<p>Demonstrating students found a ready-made propaganda banner when they tore down a movie marquee advertising a police film, “Police sur la Ville,” (“Madigan”) co-starring Richard Widmark and Henry Fonda, on the Boulevard Saint-Michel in Paris, May 10-11, 1968. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA) </p>
Paris, May 1968 — a view from the barricades

Demonstrating students found a ready-made propaganda banner when they tore down a movie marquee advertising a police film, “Police sur la Ville,” (“Madigan”) co-starring Richard Widmark and Henry Fonda, on the Boulevard Saint-Michel in Paris, May 10-11, 1968. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA)

<p>A woman sits in a chair on Rue des Saints Pères, near l’École de Médecine on May 11, 1968, a day after student clashes with police in the Latin Quarter of Paris. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA) </p>
Paris, May 1968 — a view from the barricades

A woman sits in a chair on Rue des Saints Pères, near l’École de Médecine on May 11, 1968, a day after student clashes with police in the Latin Quarter of Paris. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA)

<p>A damaged bust is seen on Rue des Saints Pères after student clashes with police in the Latin Quarter of Paris on May 11, 1968. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA) </p>
Paris, May 1968 — a view from the barricades

A damaged bust is seen on Rue des Saints Pères after student clashes with police in the Latin Quarter of Paris on May 11, 1968. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA)

<p>Daniel Cohn-Bendit (aka “Danny the Red”), the charismatic student leader, addresses a crowd of students on strike at the Sorbonne, Paris, May 28, 1968. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA) </p>
Paris, May 1968 — a view from the barricades

Daniel Cohn-Bendit (aka “Danny the Red”), the charismatic student leader, addresses a crowd of students on strike at the Sorbonne, Paris, May 28, 1968. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA)

<p>Andre Malraux and other Gaullists rally to President Charles de Gaulle’s call in a radio speech for the “silent majority” to demonstrate against the rioting students and workers. They led more than a half-million supporters to the Arc de Triomphe, where the Gaullist leaders placed a symbolic wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Paris, May 30, 1968. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA) </p>
Paris, May 1968 — a view from the barricades

Andre Malraux and other Gaullists rally to President Charles de Gaulle’s call in a radio speech for the “silent majority” to demonstrate against the rioting students and workers. They led more than a half-million supporters to the Arc de Triomphe, where the Gaullist leaders placed a symbolic wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Paris, May 30, 1968. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA)

<p>The crowd applauds the police during a Gaullist demonstration, Avenue Victor Hugo, Paris, May 30, 1968. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA) </p>
Paris, May 1968 — a view from the barricades

The crowd applauds the police during a Gaullist demonstration, Avenue Victor Hugo, Paris, May 30, 1968. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA)

<p>More than a half-million people march up the Avenue des Champs-Élysées to support President Charles de Gaulle after he announced the dissolution of the National Assembly, postponement of the referendum, a change in the government under Prime Minister Georges Pompidou, and a call to civic action in the face of student and worker unrest, Place de l’Étoile, Paris, May 30, 1968. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA) </p>
Paris, May 1968 — a view from the barricades

More than a half-million people march up the Avenue des Champs-Élysées to support President Charles de Gaulle after he announced the dissolution of the National Assembly, postponement of the referendum, a change in the government under Prime Minister Georges Pompidou, and a call to civic action in the face of student and worker unrest, Place de l’Étoile, Paris, May 30, 1968. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA)

<p>A pacifist student puts a flower in the cap of a wary police officer guarding the Sorbonne during the student riots, Boulevard Saint-Michel, Paris, June 16, 1968. The protests of May 1968 also gave impetus to the women’s liberation movement in France and the recognition of homosexuality. (Photograph by Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA) </p>
Paris, May 1968 — a view from the barricades

A pacifist student puts a flower in the cap of a wary police officer guarding the Sorbonne during the student riots, Boulevard Saint-Michel, Paris, June 16, 1968. The protests of May 1968 also gave impetus to the women’s liberation movement in France and the recognition of homosexuality. (Photograph by Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA)

<p>Although universities were closed during the student riots, elementary schools remained open, and young children attended classes, climbing over paving stones at a barricade erected by students, Rue de l’Université, Paris, June 11, 1968. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA) </p>
Paris, May 1968 — a view from the barricades

Although universities were closed during the student riots, elementary schools remained open, and young children attended classes, climbing over paving stones at a barricade erected by students, Rue de l’Université, Paris, June 11, 1968. (Photo: Gökşin Sipahioğlu/SIPA)

<p>Gökşin Sipahioğlu stands on Rue Gay-Lussac the day after the May 10, 1968, clashes between students and police in Paris. (Photo: Document Sipahioglu Archive) </p>
Paris, May 1968 — a view from the barricades

Gökşin Sipahioğlu stands on Rue Gay-Lussac the day after the May 10, 1968, clashes between students and police in Paris. (Photo: Document Sipahioglu Archive)

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