Vincent Gouriou Photographs Melanie, a Young Transgender, against LGBT Discrimination
These days we’re featuring some of our favorite submissions we’ve received for the recently closed #FotoRoomOPEN | OSTKREUZ edition. We’ve seen so much good work that it will take a few weeks to share them all with you! (By the way, we’re now accepting submissions for the new #FotoRoomOPEN | Format edition—this time the winner gets a $1,000 award).
43 year-old French photographer Vincent Gouriou‘s main interest as a photographer is “looking into what defines a human being. I like to tell stories about atypical people and to show the universality in their specific ways of life. To that end, I especially explore their intimacy and their daily lives—my intention is to put forward the question of what can be considered as diversity and normality. I sometimes take still lifes or landscape photographs, but only when they make sense in a series about human subjects, as an additional way to tell their story and illustrate their inner feelings or certain atmospheres. For me, photography is a way to know people and myself better.”
The “atypical” person that he photographed for this series is Melanie. “Melanie comes from a small village, in the countryside near Quimper in Brittany, France. When I met her, she was in the middle of a sexual reassignment procedure (male to female); now she is legally a woman. She is highly supported by her family, her friends and her boyfriend. She is currently 22 years old and lives in Paris with her boyfriend to study. I have photographed Melanie for the past three years and will continue to do so: she has become a friend of mine.”
Vincent “met” Melanie on Facebook a couple of years ago, at a time when many public protests against gay marriage were being held across France: “It was a violent time for the country’s LGBTI community. I started working on a series about ‘different’ families to show that they’re really just like all other families. It was my way to express the feelings I had about the opposition to gay marriage. I took pictures of friends but also contacted people I didn’t know through Facebook: that’s how I came across Melanie and asked to photograph her. She accepted immediately. Initially I was expecting to photograph her alone, but in the end her family—her boyfriend, father, step-mother and sister—accepted to pose for the images, too: it was very touching to see the support of her relatives.”
“Melanie and her family were very courageous to accept being in the spotlight. Melanie agreed to participating in this project as an activist gesture: she wanted to show her experience as a transgender to the rest of the world. I hope my images of her can give hope and inspire others. Ideally, I hope that people will appreciate her story and understand that judging is wrong and that everyone deserves the right to be who they are.”
“I like intimate pictures,” Vincent says about his approach to creating Melanie and his photography in general. “I try to get closer to my subjects when I’m taking their picture. I don’t ask anything from them, but they express what they want to, according to the relationship that has formed between us. When I construct a series, I mix photographs of daily life, relationships, intimate moments, as well as more classical portraits. I try to show universal feelings in order to create empathy in the viewer: I think that the more specific you are in capturing a certain emotion, the more you can touch those who can relate to that emotion.”
Vincent’s main inspirations for Melanie came from cinema: “I tried to tell a story on a line between reality and fiction, as if I were creating a film around the main character: Melanie. Films from Gus Van Sant, Bruno Dumont or Ken Loach are very inspiring to me.” His favorite contemporary photographers are women: “I like the sensitivity of female photographers like Rineke Dijkstra, Lise Sarfati or Claudine Doury.” The last photobook he bought was Revelations by Diane Arbus.
Vincent’s #threewordsforphotography are:
Intimacy. Identity. Sexuality.