Thursday, 6 September 2012

An interview with... me

I have been asked by one of my contacts, who is a journalist, to answer a few questions as a French gay in London for an idea he wants to pitch to an editor. Some of these I found difficult to answer, as will be obvious by the brevity of my answers.

I have no idea if and where it's going to be used, so I thought I would share it here anyway, in case anyone is interested.

Update: A version of this interview has now been published on Têtu's blog.

1) How was growing up in Dijon?
Although I was born and later I went to uni there, I didn't actually grow up in Dijon but in a big village some 50km away. My childhood was fairly uneventful if somewhat untypical for a country kid. Fairly early it became apparent that I was different and although the other kids weren't nasty about it they weren't all that welcoming either. 

Soon as I learnt to read, I took refuge in books, reading more or less any novel that came my way. I only really looked up when I got to Uni, over a decade later, and by then, years spent in my own head hadn't prepared me well for that socialising malarkey. To this day I am very much the loner, despite my best efforts.

2) When did you move to London and why?
Somehow I ended up studying English at uni. This means that visiting a native-speaking country is always more or less at the back of your mind. Eventually I spent a week in London visiting a guy from my neck of the woods who'd moved there a few years previously. He was working, so I spent much of my time wandering around on my own. 

Pretty soon it became clear that, as corny as it sounds, I had fallen in love with the place, its chaotic energy, its vibe. I still remember a feeling of relief, almost physical, like a weight had been take off my shoulders, at being there. 

I went back to uni, went through ten months of national service and then I had to make a decision as to whether I would go back again to uni and study to become a teacher (something I didn't want to do) or move to London, at least for a while. 

One early July morning in 2000, I got in my car, which was filled to the gills with my stuff and I made my way to the big smoke. I haven't really looked back.

3) You photograph men for a hobby. Did you photograph any men back in France?
Photography is one of my creative outlets, and it seems to be taking centre-stage at the moment. Until recently I was a member of a choir (see below). I also write a little and contribute to various publications. The only reading I seem to find time for these days are the books for the reading group I have been moderating for over 11 years.

Photographing men is something I have only started doing very recently, after joining the Gay Photographers Network. I only really discovered photography in 2002 after I bought a small compact digital camera for a trip to Sydney with the choir. Before that I was interested but somehow my pictures were always rubbish with an old-fashioned film camera.

Digital photography really freed me and the intervening years have been a slow learning process, shooting mostly building and things that don't move. A process that is still a long way from completion, if there is such thing. 

I have had some of my images used by various organisations (some quite prestigious) and this year through the Network I had work displayed in two exhibitions. Since the members (some of whom are professional togs) do a lot of portraiture and male form photography, it seemed natural for me to give it a go. I am rather enjoying it but the need for a model and ideally a studio don't make it any easier.

4) How do gay men in England seem to differ to gay men in France?
I am not really sure. I am guessing they aren't that different though. I had very little contact with other gay men when I was in France. My only experience of a French gay scene was that of Dijon, almost 15 years ago. It wasn't very developed. 

By the time I left, there were a couple of night bars, a few gay-friendly restaurant and a club doing gay nights on Sunday evenings. Not to forget a couple of cruising grounds and a sauna. Since then it seems to have shrunk back to even less.

The club was called L'an-fer (a not-very-good phonic pun on enfer (hell)). The inside was made to look like a Metro station. It was very good with, I think, an international reputation for electronic music. I saw Carl Cox there and Daft Punk when they were just about to make it big. Laurent Garnier, who became quite famous for a while, is supposed to have started there as a DJ. I met my first failed attempt at a boyfriend there.

5) You're a member of London's Gay Mens Chorus. Have you encouraged them to sing anything in French before?
I have now left the Chorus, after over 10 years spent as a member. I didn't really have to encourage them to sing in French. The Chorus is musically quite adventurous and we have sung in a variety of languages, including Polish, Catalan, Italian, German and of course French, several times.

6) You work for an anti-smoking charity here. Do you think the situation is better or worse in London? French bars often have smoking booths etc.
The UK has some of the best tobacco control regulations in the world so a comparison is perhaps unfair but I think that France is catching up.

7) What do you miss most about France?
I can't really think of anything.

8) If you move back to France? what would you miss most about London?
The longer I stay here the fewer reasons I have to go back, if any. London is home for me now and there would be much to miss should I have to leave it.

9) Which sights in London would you recommend to a French visitor?
London has so much to offer, catering for virtually all tastes (apart perhaps for sun-lovers). I think my suggestions would very much depend on what I know of the person I would make them to. Walking around the place and observe what is happening is usually great fun.

10) And finally, who's your favourite Spice Girl?
I don't have one.


  1. Salut N.

    Ca fait un bail! Je recommence a chanter pour noel. Je ne savais pas que tu etais photographe maintenant. J'ai perdu mes liens quand j'ai transfere l'addresse de mon blog, et j'ai oublie pinksauce. Maintenant c'est regle. a bientot?


  2. Hello S,

    J'ai laisse tomber la chorale (apres plud de 10 ans). je suis pas vraiment photographe. je fais ca pour m'amuser. :)



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