Returning to Underground Realness
First of all I’m obsessed with this project. I’m also kind of shocked that it’s from as recent as 2005 in a major European, cosmopolitan city — gay Paris! What was it like in those days? What is it like now? Does the club still exist?
Around the years I took the photographs, in the early 2000’s, there were a lot of gay clubs and bars in Paris where everyone was out in the open. This club was very unusual in that it was underground and hidden with little provincial feel to it. Casual fun, kinkiness and hard core sex were equally accessible and you could find any kind of people: family men, people who liked to dress up, women, transexuals, regulars who just came for a drink and a laugh or those who were there purely for sex and orgies.
Caitlyn Jenner: thoughts?
She is one of the many who helped bringing the transexuals out of the shadow. Doing it on the later side was also impactful because it gave hope.
I have this theory that the repulsion toward gay people and transsexuals is based in the biological necessity to continue the species. What does the House of Love represent in relation to this idea, and how would they react to it?
Personally, I believe the repulsion comes from ignorance and the human tendency to be scared of the unknown. The MDT, this private club was a refuge, a playground, a universe where everyone could be free and forget the outside world with all its limitations.
Creating a character and discovering your real identity: where’s the line, if it exists?
It is an anthropological question that requires a very long answer! I guess in the process of discovering one's real identity, one necessarily creates a new character in giving birth to the “real self." All I know is that all my friends had this real identity inhabiting them for as long as they could remember.
Does the transition cease after the final operation? How much of being male or female is connected to the body?
The final operation was a huge step. It's an emancipation from a ”prison body” and the beginning of a new life, it's a lifelong process with challenges, steps, mountains to cross. I guess everything starts in the mind that needs to express something with the body. The need to change could be for one night, every night, or forever.
You describe a variegated scene of sex, performance, and trust. Were you simply a voyeur, or did you participate in the debauchery?
It took me three months to get the approval from the owner to take my first picture. At that point, I was hanging out with everyone as a usual customer and started freely taking pictures. My familiarity with everyone allowed me to push the boundaries and to eventually take photos during the sex scenes. In the most intimate moments, the camera was the wall between me and them.
What is your opinion of the heightened sensitivity surrounding gender identity these days?
How can photography change lives?
By informing others and fighting ignorance. It won’t necessarily change directly the life of the subjects but maybe the lives of others down the road.
Do you watch RuPaul’s Drag Race? Rooting for any queens this season? Thoughts on Trixie’s All Stars win?
No, sorry. I don’t watch TV or shows much. I would love to be able photograph RuPaul and the queens though!
Describe your first reaction to la Maison des Travistis in three words.
Liberté (liberty). Egalité (equality). Fraternité (fraternity). (National French motro born of the French Revolution).