Bois des Vincennes was the first photo shoot location after I arrived in Paris. Before coming to Paris, I knew the park only by its name and I saw some beautiful photographs taken by Baronnedeneuve one of the photographers that have inspired me from the early stage. When Elio told me that there’s a nudist area in the park and wanted to take photos there, I agreed, after all, it’d been a long time since I did any outdoor shoot. It’s summer and hot.
We walked in the sun, crossing little paths, and finally arrived at the L’espace des naturists. Unlike what I had imagined, a secretive cruising place in the deep of the woods, it’s an open space, rather bare, a tall tree stands in the middle. A sense of tranquility governed this place. People scattered here and there, two or three, some alone. Most were chilling, sunbathing. Sometimes glares were exchanged. From time to time, the peacefulness was disturbed by movements of men walking around, just arriving or leaving.
I was surprised by how many handsome boys were present. Everyone seemed so uncomfortable with his skin. There were also many gorgeous black men. I found it fascinating to see their dark skin glossing, an effect of sweat absorbing and reflecting the sunlight. Suddenly I felt intimidated, by the scene in front of me, with my cameras and all the clothes on me. It’s the reverse psychology. I felt standing out. I never felt comfortable, being naked in the public.
Elio did feel very comfortable. He took his clothes off and posed in front of everyone. There was always this cruisy feeling hanging in the air, the stares coming from different directions, the passing by of men in front of you. At one point, after we sat down, Elio told me, hey, look at the guy behind us, he’s touching himself. Elio was apparently excited, and even tried to find that guy later, but helas, he had already left. Well, I don’t blame him. It’s indeed very tempting, being in such a place. And it’s summer.
I returned to Bois des Vincennes a few days later, with Cesare and Cedric. It was not planned. That morning I had my first photo shoot with Cedric at my hotel. I was so happy with the results that I wanted to take more photos of him. Cedric, a beautiful Parisian boy, with impeccable taste of fashion, had curly hair in the color “marron”, as they say here in France, fair smooth skin that reminded me of milk. So I decided it would be a good idea to have some outdoor photos in the woods.
We went to meet Cesare first as Cesare was my 2nd photo shoot of the day. He also suggested taking photos in Bois des Vincennes before. So we went together, to hang, to chill, to take photos and to enjoy the afternoon. The temperature was cooler than the first time. There were still a good amount of people relaxing. After we found our spot in the open space, we all took off the shoes, the pants and the shirts. It felts good and it felt free. For once, I could set the mind free and focus on the present.
Without any concrete plan of the photo shoot, we lay there simply. Cesare saw someone he knew and chatted a bit. Cedric and I were finishing the food we bought from the super market. Cesare was in a very good mood, happy, smiling. It’s a good sign, I thought. He could be charming, a charisma that is originated from his confidence, like at this moment now. His body is lean, but well fit and proportional. He stood up, stretching under the song. As we looked up from sitting down, he was good.
Then the chemistry started. I noticed something unveiling itself soon after Cesare took his arms around Cedric. I just couldn’t explain or was sure if it’s chemistry or just plain playfulness. Slowly, well, not slowly, actually, quite fast, they were smitten for each other. I was surprised, but not surprised, as I understand how it feels like when you like someone. This feeling doesn’t need anything to define it, time, space, gender… You don’t need to explain it either. I was happy that this happened in the most natural way, right there.
I took a lot of photos of them, trying to capture the intimacy of two boys, revealing their emotions. It’s so spontaneous that I only used my point and shoot analogue camera to capture everything. It’s a small discreet camera which allowed me to snap freely without thinking much and disturbing people around. I had the perfect film for it, Kodak Portra 160, a stock that is very capable in this light condition and has very nice skin tone color rendering. I thought, if it doesn’t turn good, then it’s meant to stay only in our memories.
As the sun started to set, I felt it’s time to leave them alone, give some privacy. Plus, I didn’t like to be the third wheel. What would happens next was up to them. I hoped they could try to keep this chemistry as long as possible. Maybe it’s a new start for both of them. Unfortunately this story ended shortly after that afternoon in the Bois des vincennes. Sometimes it’s just not meant to be. There is no reason why. The question that is left is whether they would cherish this moment as something special, fixed in that afternoon or they would choose to forget?