Corps extrêmes : The Photographer’s Perspective

Christophe Berlet

On the train heading to Bourges. 

I’m thinking about photography. Concentrating. 

I’m thinking about the meaning of photography, the meaning I think it has, its symbolic value but also its very concrete, physical aspect. 

And the sense of pleasure I seek over and over again. 


It is a peculiar thing, documenting behind-the-scenes work and a dress rehearsal. 

I’m used to having a space and time devoted solely to a photoshoot. 

But this time it’ll be different. It won’t be about me. 


Before a shoot, I always ask myself the same questions:

Will they give me a warm welcome? Will they be comfortable in front of the camera?

Will I fit in? Will I feel shy? Will the place be photogenic? Will there be enough natural light?

I go through all the potential problems so I won’t have to worry about them anymore. 

Everything has to be intuitive, automatic and simple. Just like an athlete who trusts their body’s knowledge and finetunes their strategy according to the situation, because they know they have trained for this.

The meeting point is at the Maison de la Culture in Bourges. Everyone welcomes me warmly.

There’s a playful and childlike energy coming from the group. 

They have just met again after a break between performances, they’re reprising the piece. They’re all very focused on finding their bearings again.

They move boldly through space, rehearse their acrobatic moves. 

We’re going to spend eight hours together, between warmups, lunch, rehearsals and the dress rehearsal. We have time to watch each other, to listen and talk to each other. 

For this brief period of time I enter the world of acrobats, circus performers, athletes. 

It’s a whole other culture, new to me.


I am lucky enough to be admitted on stage with them, at close quarters. I observe their muscular physiques, which are shaped according to every performer’s specialty: acrobats, flying trapeze performers, climbers. I watch how they move in space. 

I admire their dexterity and I’m given a glimpse of how much work it took for them to get where they are now.

It’s a strange and beautiful experience. 

For a moment, I think I’m part of their world. 

It’s almost a door onto a new me. 

And for all this, and much more, I thank them all, and wish them well on their journey. 

“I think that as children we inherit territories we will have to conquer all our lives. When I was a child I wanted to live because there were wild animals, horses, and the call of the forest; the great plains, the high mountains and the raging sea; acrobats, tightrope walkers, and storytellers.” 

Nastassja Martin, from Croire aux fauves (Verticales, 2019)

Christophe Berlet

Photo : © Christophe Berlet