The Marseille Kiss…
AFP Photo/Gerard Julien
By Gerard Julien
Alliance Vita, a grassroots group that opposes abortion and gay marriage, organized demonstrations in several cities across France on October 23 to protest a draft law that would, if passed, allow homosexual couples to adopt. I hadn’t planned on covering their rally in Marseille, where I’m based, because I knew that my photographer colleagues in other cities were already on the story. But it was a slow day, so I decided to check it out.
Upon arriving, I saw that the demonstrators, a couple hundred strong, had symbolically divided by sex, men on one side of a corridor-like divide, and women on the other. A man in an angel costume walked back-and-forth between them, with the word “papa” written on one wing, and “mama” written on the other. A large white-on-pink banner read: “one father, one mother – we don’t lie to children”.
I was taking pictures on the square in front of a government office when I saw two 20-something women rush up into the corridor that separated the protestors. They stopped in the middle, and then locked into a passionate kiss on the mouth that lasted about four seconds. By the time it was over, I had nine images taken with two different lenses. Then the two women left as quickly as they had come, with a smile on their lips.
AFP Photo/Gerard Julien
Everyone – myself included – was caught off-guard. There’s more than one gaping mouth among the demonstrators in the photo above, though some of the anti-gay marriage protestors seemed vaguely amused by the audacity of the kissers. My only regret is that I didn’t stop the young women to find out who they were and why they did what they did.
An on-the-spot inspiration? A premeditated mis-en-scene? We’ll never know for sure, I guess, but personally I think the two girls saw an opportunity to make a point and just seized the moment. They came, did their thing, and left in a matter of seconds. There were no TV cameras around, and they showed no sign of noticing my presence. I’m pretty sure that I’m the only photographer that even saw them. As is often the case in photo journalism, it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
I had an inkling that the picture – which touches on an issue that leaves few indifferent – would resonate across a large audience. But I confess that I had no idea just how much attention it would draw. Who knows, it could turn out to be the kind of image that only comes along once in a while in the career of a photographer…