Pierre Gély-Fort: The Dark LOVE BOAT
“A parody of The LOVE BOAT, the cult American TV series with 270 episodes broadcast all over the world in the 1980s and late 1990s, this photo-book project is called The Dark LOVE BOAT, taking inspiration from the title of the original American program.
Consisting of 87 images, this photo book shows an artistic perspective of the cruise-liner experience, typically enjoyed by upper-middle-class Americans today.
It explores and questions the existence or inexistence of the link between the passengers, their life on-board the ship, and the sea.
Miami Beach, with its port, the world capital of cruise liners with over 5 million passengers a year. The city is the starting point of the story of one of the biggest liners in the world: Symphony of the Seas, which was built in France.
When the Saint-Nazaire shipyard announced the putting into service of this monster of the seas in April 2018, with almost 9,000 passengers on board, I was ready for action!
After a short trial run in the Mediterranean from April to October 2018, the giant cruise liner traveled to its new homeport, Miami Beach, to do Caribbean cruises.
March 2019, wearing flip-flops and a swimsuit or a suit and tie, I shared in the daytime and nocturnal activities of these American cruise passengers. The result is this book, which offers a very personal vision, at a remove from a more traditional documentary-style or photo-journalistic narrative. The choice of black and white photography became an obvious one once shooting had started. The Dark LOVE BOAT: a fairy-tale, outside of time, where everyone can tell their own story.”
The voyage that Pierre Gély-Fort invites us on has more in common with a nightmare than a pleasurable experience. On this bunker-like cruise liner, the passengers resemble convicts trapped in a fake environment, where boredom and satiety are rife. The travelers greedily give themselves over to selfies, blissfully unaware that the surrounding environment resembles a cardboard stage set, an opulent mirror that serves to reflect social success and material happiness. The ship is so immense that it completely occults the entire field of vision. We see nothing of the outside landscape, barely glimpsing a piece of sky or sea. Like Patrick McGoohan in “The Prisoner”, the prison island that is this ocean liner, is all that the occupants have the leisure of strolling, contemplating, and consuming.
For these travelers, dreams of any other kind appear not only as forbidden but also futile. On this ship, where the sheer scale anesthetizes everything off-screen, the passengers seem to renounce their individuality upon embarking, in order to fit into the mold of a privileged class. The only condition is to be happy!
Beyond their apparent innocuousness, Pierre Gély-Fort’s photographs offer an uncompromising look at a world where everything contributes to reducing human beings to the rank of naïve, servile consumers.
At the opposite extreme of a photo-journalistic report, and as if endowed with a scalpel, Pierre painstakingly dissects his very personal vision of an incandescent pallor. Abandoning the color that characterized his earlier poetic journeys to distant lands, here, he has opted for a radical black and white that is highly contrasted, almost clinical.
The aim here is not to magnify or humanize the story, but instead to demystify this cruise experience, enjoyable for some, undoubtedly, but evocative of fish trapped in a bowl.
(Paulo Lobo, Journalist, and Photographer)
About the Author
A photographer and creator of books, with a penchant for visual worlds, rich in color, Pierre Gély-Fort extends his love of travel through the books he designs and lays out himself.
Without texts or legends, the geographical locations become the pretext for artistic expression, outside of a traditional narrative documentary or photo-journalistic document. The author reveals his travels and encounters across a range of countries by means of an emotional gaze and an inherent, underlying dialogue.
Pierre Gély-Fort is a Frenchman, born in Algiers, who has lived in different parts of the world for over 25 years: Asia, Eastern Europe, and Scandinavia. He studied at Les Gobelins (Paris) and took a number of masterclasses with Klavdij Sluban. An encounter with Agathe Gaillard encouraged him to pursue his passion for creating artist’s books. Pierre Gély-Fort takes his inspiration from color photography and the artistic evolutions of color analog film photography.