The Pigeon Man is an Anarchist
Giuseppe Belvedere is a prominent inhabitant of Paris – almost a city attraction, considering the number of pictures taken of him and posted on social networks. Giuseppe’s celebrity comes from the simple fact that he feeds birds. Nothing unusual, giving bread to the birds, sure. But, he does it in a special way; because he turned this ordinary act into a political issue.
Up to four times a day, he goes to the square in front of the Atelier Brancusi, in the Beaubourg neighbourhood of Paris, to throw around 5 kilos of cereal to the local pigeons, plus a ration of brioches to the sparrows, to the delight of tourists and photographers who register everything. Sometimes, and quite often, he shouts at those who scare the birds – a behavioural trait that makes him look like an unhinged man. Yet, Giuseppe can be anything but a crazy guy; his compromise with the birds comes from an anarchist political point of view more than from an unconditional love for the animals or some sort of ecological ideal, as he explained me once.
Born in Calabria and emigrated to France 40 years ago, Giuseppe worked as an accountant, paid his taxes and lived a normal life until the day he saw a demonstration in front of his house; a group of people who were denouncing an extermination program of the city birds. “Because the pigeons never represented a problem to me, and no referendum was ever made on this subject, I decided to join this group”, he said. A few days later he was in charge of feeding the birds. Soon, he accumulate a pile of fines and letters from the city administration saying that his activity was illegal. At that time, he used to lived in a social services flat. But, a man taking profit of a public service, who didn’t pay his debts with the municipality and who kept throwing grains on public space was too much. So, one day he was evicted. With no place to live, he started sleeping in a van – a white car where he still lives to this day.
By stubbornness, vengeance or provocation, or maybe all combined, Giuseppe took the eviction as a declaration of war. Instead of reining back his ornithological activities, he decided to dedicate his days to the birds. Almost all his retirement income is used to purchase grains and medications to heal sick birds. “I do it because I truly believe [in the freedom of] man. Politicians cannot simply decide what and how people must live. They should [listen to] our needs, our claims and respond to that”.
Not everyone knows this is his real motivation, the consequences of Giuseppe’s political ideology has brought upon him harsh reactions; his white van is constantly vandalised and he is regularly a victim of physical abuse. Giuseppe, a homeless, Italian fellow in his 60’s, is continuously aggressed by people who say he represents a social problem; a public health threat.
Fernanda is a Brazilian photographer and journalist, who lived in Paris and is currently based in Sicily. Her attention is focused on subjects of social behaviour, personal identity and stereotypes. Between 2014 and 2015, she photographed Giuseppe Belvedere.