Why you should care
Because Aquaman was a superhero for a reason.
When I first met the Paris Aquatique team, I knew very little about synchronized swimming. The images I did have in mind were mostly of the women’s Olympic teams curving into graceful feminine shapes. But after several weeks of photographing this French men’s team, I discovered synchronized swimming is, in fact, a very demanding sport, requiring strength, endurance and flexibility.
“We like to combine swimming, dance and acrobatics,” says 34-year-old Jean-Philippe. He and his nine teammates participated in an amateur competition in Paris that brings together synchronized swimmers (male and female) from all over Europe. Formed in 1998, the all-male team — comprised of engineers, designers, computer techs, sports instructors, real estate agents and police officers — is one of the few men’s synchronized swimming groups. In the Paris tournament, the men competed against 20,000 women from clubs affiliated with the French Federation of Swimming.
“We want to offer something explosive. Girls are in the grace and virtuosity. Us — strength and technique,” says Jean-Philippe.
Male participation in the sport has long been limited globally, except in France, where it’s on the rise. Men still don’t compete at the Olympic or world level, but in France, there’s movement to change that.
I saw the fruits of that effort on May 18, 2013, at the Georges-Vallerey swimming pool. What I captured during that competition was four minutes of the aquatic version of a street fight.
That day, the boys won.