Editorial by Tom Demerly.
I want you to consider the photo above. I took
it on the beach in Nice, France at the Nice Triathlon back in
September. It may be my favorite photo of several hundred thousand
I have taken since I first picked up a camera at age 15.
To me, it says everything that needs to be said
about the most powerful thing in human existence: Love.
I decided to call the photo “Proof”
because to me, this image proves that the pristine, idyllic,
perfect and flawless version of love exists, and this is what
it looks like.
It was restlessly warm that afternoon. Earlier
in the day a waiter in a café’ had scoffed in frustration
trying to keep my menu from blowing away on the warm, relentless
breeze. “Ahh, Le Mistral” he said, talking about
the wind that is born south of here over the Sahara and is filtered
over the azure Mediterranean until it makes landfall here on
the Riviera. “Le Mistral”: This is one of those
places where the wind has a name.
This soft breath of air, born in the void of the
world’s most terrible desert and tempered by the crystal
sea, is one of the many things that conspire to make the Cote
d’Azur and Nice among the most fertile soils for love
in the world. And this photo is proof.
On the rocky beach that is a metaphor for life,
set against the vastness of the sea this couple napped in solitude;
their love and closeness their only protection from these harsh
elements of rock and sea. And this protection being not only
adequate but, in fact, providing them with everything to face
life against this difficult reality.
I stood on the rocky beach trying to use a 400
mm telephoto lens to capture a particular landscape I was looking
for when I saw them, and in an instant I knew what I was looking
at. I raised the camera and fired once. Then I scrolled through
my photos on the digital playback screen and realized what I
had captured. It was the last photo I shot that day. There was
no way to top it. After that, you put your cameras away and
call it a day.
Back in my hotel room the photo wound its electronic
way from camera to laptop and I saw it as you see it now. This
is one of very few photos that has not been run through Photoshop
or any other artificial enhancement. This is how it looked,
because this is how it is really supposed to be. I am convinced
of that, have been forever, and now I have proof.
No skill was required to take this photo. My camera
was set on automatic exposure, I used a polarizing filter and
the lens features a gyroscope to hold it steady. It even focuses
automatically. So all I had to do was push the button once.
The image made itself. To me, it couldn’t be more perfect.
There is a voyeuristic quality to this photo.
And that says a lot about how we see and experience love; from
a distance, through a long lens. It often seems like it is something
someone else has. People spend there lives looking for it. Women
pen personal ads “looking for their prince” and
being “tired of kissing frogs”. Men buy sports cars
and big houses, make trips to the gym and get hair plugs. But
for the most part, they never wind up on this beach in France.
The day I took this photo, this was the only couple on the beach.
The only one. Everyone else was busy working to buy their Ferrari
or their boob job or writing their personal ad, chasing this
feeling. This is the feeling all those perfume ads and car commercials
try to capture. If you buy what they are selling then you will
feel it. But I doubt these two lovers on the beach have any
Look at this girl. She is beautiful of course,
but not so much because of her physical configuration but more
because of her serenity. This is the country that gave Mona
Lisa her smile, and now I know what she is smiling about. It
is love like this, here in France. That is the smile you see
on this girl- the Mona Lisa smile. Notice how restful her expression
is. On these rocks, out in the open, she is utterly content
and entirely safe. In the embrace of her lover she drifts on
dreams not too far removed from her reality. You and I may dream
of doing exactly this on the beach in the French Riviera. What
do you suppose someone who actually lives it dreams of?
And what about her lover? This man is a Knight,
a prince, a poet. He is free from the artificial edifices of
male attractiveness. He isn’t particularly well muscled,
he certainly isn’t tan but he gives a nod to the aesthetic
with his jewelry. He understands beauty and lives submerged
in it. In what is more than a bit of symbolism he is draped
over her, having sacrificed his shirt to her. Protecting her,
keeping her warm. Shielding her from the elements with his body.
This, I would suggest, is a man with his values straight. When
he is old and bedridden it is likely the memory of this afternoon
will keep a smile on his face. I imagine a daydream like this,
for him reality, will be on his mind when he passes to his peaceful
eternity. I wonder what will be on yours and mine?
I wager this is what women in countries around
the world dream of at night: A place like this, a man like this,
a feeling like this. When you consider all the ridiculous behaviors
we live in an attempt to capture just a piece of this; the cosmetic
surgeries, the sports cars, and all the other pointless primping
and posturing, it all boils down to this- a boy, a girl a breeze
and a beach. Warmth, closeness, safety.
Warmth, closeness, safety. It really is that simple.
If you think about it, everything else just gets in the way.
This couple has stripped all the rest of that away, and look
what they are left with- the thing we spend most of our lives
In a society where more relationships fail than
succeed and divorce is a bigger industry than marriage you have
to wonder what lessons we can learn by studying this couple.
Now, I know what you are saying, this is just
a snapshot in time, literally 1/500th of a second out of a life
of two people that could be filled with all kinds of normal
travails. I will agree. I’m sure this young couple faces
their share of challenges. But through the challenges in their
young lives they have still have wound up here, on a weekday
afternoon in one of the most beautiful places on earth. If you
consider that only 1% of their lives together are made of moments
like this, isn’t that enough?
When I saw this couple it seemed like a cacophony
of every love song I ever heard rang through my mind at once.
This is those songs. This is what they are talking about.
You see, it is real. It really is that simple.
This picture is proof.
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