For this series, Charles Fréger set up his camera in the changing room of a swimming pool in Normandy, France, to make portraits of the members of a water polo team just after training. Like many of Fréger’s other projects from this period, this series records an aspect of a world he was very familiar with.
Water-Polo stands out particularly in Charles Fréger’s work; no doubt because his approach here has an obviously systematic quality to it. Water-Polo is probably one of his most systematic sets of images. It dates from the first years of his practice and is the set of pictures where he decided on the constraints of his photographic approach: a tightly focused camera – he limits himself strictly to the head and shoulders – and he works within the framework of a series; for the first time, the titles of his photographs are simply numbers – in this case 1 to 12, going from the youngest player to the oldest. The systematic quality is further reinforced by the unchanging background from one image to the next, the repeated shade of blue on the changing room wall. The minimal uniform amounts to no more than the swimming cap with its earpieces and strings, either tied under the chin or left untied and leaving a pattern on the subject’s still wet skin – the swimming cap, and each subject’s skin and his body as well, hovering from picture to picture between boyhood and adolescence. The photographer, like the subject, stood firm and, with all the confidence gained from finding this framework, Fréger was now in a position to explore the artistic possibilities contained within this territory that he had marked out as his.