How often can we trust what our eyes tell us to believe?

I first saw this man, Jérôme Laureau, at an Easter party and I didn’t know quite what to make of him.

I didn’t speak to him that day but I did hear how upset he was at the arrival of an intoxicated guest. Apparently he didn’t think that was what Easter was about. He thought it entirely disrespectful to the hosts and inappropriate in light of the many children present. Hmm. Curious. I had to know more.

What do you think of him? It’s easy to snap to many judgements especially when you happen to notice some of the words on his arms …

Or the things on his desk …

Yes, that’s a real gun. It sits below a bookshelf that has a copy of Adolph Hitler’s Mon Combat and dozens of hard core punk CDs. Now what do you think of him?

What if I told you he was a musician (true punk, naturally) and SCROTUM was the name of a band he played with? What if I told you he was a gifted painter who of course loves dark subjects but whose studio also has more colour than any rainbow?

And then, what if I told you that in his studio filled with hundreds upon hundreds of images, there was not a single one that objectified women in any way? Although there were two pictures of the same woman. A woman many years his senior who he spent nine years with, loving and caring for her in a relationship that many of us would not immediately understand. A woman who suffered unimaginable atrocities in Nazi Germany.

She was a pianist, silenced by hatred, who spent her final days listening to Jérôme’s punk band, music she declared “beautiful.” Her bed can be found in a small room in the back of this atelier which was once her home, bequeathed to her companion upon her death.

As one would expect from any hard-core musician, there are indeed pictures of women to be found in his band’s CD inserts. Like this one …

his beautiful and charming wife, Stephanie—a gracious woman and a soft-spoken, tender mother who also works at a museum.

What if I told you that he likes guns but hates violence? And what if I told you that I spent a Sunday watching him care lovingly for two tiny daughters — heating wee plates of vegetables and patiently demonstrating the task of tricycle operation? He sipped his tea and talked of his love of children and how he wanted more.

He embraced and kissed my friend Michel, the kindest man I know, with a warmth and sincerity that men from my world don’t display. And, of course, he was kind enough to spend a whole afternoon with me just so I could show you yet another piece of this French life.

He is thoughtful and kind; a creative soul and family man. He is a punk rock paradox. He is just Jérôme.

ps merci to Neil yet again for these amazing photographs