Galerie HEGOA in Paris features a new series by the French photographer Gil Rigoulet, known for his images of Norman rockers of the 1970s.
Water has always been my element. I always go for long swims, taking off for two hours at a time when I’m by the sea: the bliss of peace and quiet, my gaze skimming the water’s surface, my body melting into this aquatic motion where I become a mere speck: holidays by the seaside and, later, swimming pools. At the time, swimming pools were hangouts; me and my friends would stick around for hours, not necessarily swimming, there were a lot of people we knew. The place used to be booming and lively; I would put on my goggles and find some peace under water, free-diving: I discovered bodies letting loose.
In the summer of 1984, Christophe, a Parisian friend of mine, came to join us at the Evreux swimming pool with his little waterproof camera, manufactured by Fujica for vacationing families. It was a real gem, you could take it five meters deep and it had beautiful optics. I kept borrowing it throughout the summer… Then I had four of my own that never left my side for thirty years.
I did a series of black and white images about life at swimming pools in France and around the world, as well as by the seaside. It is part of a sociological and aesthetical research that I have conducted for thirty years on the theme of “Body and water.”
This collection is unique in scope, as well as unique due to the fact that I was able to take photos out in the open without any authorization (nowadays photographing is forbidden in municipal swimming pools); my camera went exploring the surface and underwater, and nobody ever minded. Hence this sense of proximity, this sensuality, this Dolce Vita that emanate from my photos. Children splashed around, women slid their bathing suits to their hips and swam topless, we had smokes after the swim, our fingers still wet.
Thirty years ago, the standards of security, hygiene, aesthetics were different than today: you had diving boards, hair in water, you could run on the tiled floor, free-dive, jump into water, wear whatever swimming trunks you liked. It was an era of leisurely swimming. One would go to the swimming pool in the afternoon or during the day. These places were extremely vibrant, playful; people would come to have fun together. I was free to observe during all these years, always tenderly, aesthetically, and even with a dose of humor.
Gil Rigoulet is a French photographer who began his career in 1975 and worked for large French and international newspapers for over three decades.
Gil Rigoulet, Le corps et l’eau
March 23 to April 30, 2018
16 Rue de Beaune