residents of an nursing home expose themselves around Darcy Park

Smiles are de rigueur this Friday, August 12. This is the culmination of a six-month adventure, during which a dozen residents of the Messigny-et-Vantoux nursing home played an unusual game for a retirement home: talking about their past loves or present, to dive back into very old memories. Great vertigo in perspective.

Dom Juan with Ehpad sauce

The result is therefore the portraits of these women and men, photos of today confronted with those of yesterday, artistically composed by a plastic photographer, Grégoire B-Thorain. Former employee of the Ehpad de Messigny, it was he who won the trust of the residents:

“It is a work of investigation, of archeology of the image, where I will discuss with each resident, and see what he will entrust to me as a letter, a note, a photograph, and then there is a job of photos on the prints of clothes, scarves, everything related to seduction, to try to compose the background of the image.”

Grégoire B-Thorin, plastic photographer (on the left) and Alice Thalamy, from the company “A vrai dire” (on the right) © Radio France
Arnaud Racape

At the origin of this somewhat crazy idea, there is Alice Thalamy from the Nivernaise theater company “A vrai dire”. As part of a culture and health project funded by the Ministry of Culture and the regional health agency, she had the idea, through Grégoire B-Thorain, of making our elders. “We are in a Dom Juan cycle with the company, and Molière’s Dom Juan, which is celebrating its 400th anniversary this year, is a great excuse to question our relationship to love and desire. And very quickly I had the need to seek out what people wanted to pass on about their own experiences, and I obviously started these surveys with the elderly, those who had gone through the most experiences, and romantic adventures.”

Families very involved… and very moved

Jacques, 100, is the dean of the Messigny-et-Vantoux nursing home. His portrait stands alongside that of his wife, Germaine, 97, with whom he still shares his room at the residence. Soon 80 years that they love each other, these two. And this work of introspection in its distant past does not change anything. “We had a great life, with a lot of work, but also a lot of satisfaction. What more could you ask for? And when you look back, you have to be proud. I’m proud of my life.”

Jacques has just celebrated his 100th birthday, still with his wife Germaine
Jacques has just celebrated his 100th birthday, still with his wife Germaine © Radio France
Arnaud Racape

Moved, his son Pierre-Alain dwells on the photos of his dad’s past: “this is a picture of him when he was young, this is when he was in the US army, and this is his pastry shop, which is at 25 Darcy place, on the other side, where he there’s a sushi restaurant now.”

Families obviously complicit in this adventure: for the purposes of the exhibition, Patrick went to dig into the business of his mother Maggy, 94 years old: “I’m very happy because it allowed me to find photos of his wedding, of my father, it’s true that it brings back memories! And then to talk about love, it’s very intimate, and to talk about all that, it’s a stir!”

The exhibition will remain on display until September 7
The exhibition will remain on display until September 7 © Radio France
Arnaud Racape

This project is finally proof that our retirement homes are not destined to be places of death. The director of the Ehpad des Ducs de Bourgogne Claire Ricci, 100% involved, also wears a big smile like that, alongside several of her employees, such as Agnès Alain, facilitator. “You know, our job is serious in the sense that we take care of the other. And that’s important. And so we see them perhaps too much in the care, we needed to see them differently, as people, and they are men and women, who love, who have pleasure, who have desire, like you and me. And that is difficult to conceive, especially in a structure.”

Grégoire B-Thorain agrees: “even at 100 we want to seduce, even at 100 we want to be loved, to love.” Message of public interest to discover until September 7, in photo, but not only: the portraits are accompanied by a QR Code, which allows us to hear each resident in podcast. Each interview lasts half an hour, with, it seems, a lot of “punchlines”. Good listening !

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