Paris-based journalist and documentary filmmaker Stefania Rousselle was feeling overwhelmed by the distressing reportages she had been working on for the American media, on sex trafficking, unemployment, the rise of extremism and the terrorist attacks in Paris (to one of which she lost a friend). “I was covering trauma, sadness and despair,” she says. As an antidote, she decided to take a solo road trip around France to see if she could find love, or rather love stories. “I was going to see for myself if people really cared for each other, or if love was just a lie.”
Her outgoing personality facilitated contact with strangers. “When I woke up in the morning, I never knew who I was going to meet that day,” she says. “I would look at a map, search for a town two hours away from where I was, and just head there.” She hung out with and befriended her subjects and even stayed overnight in their homes. Here are a few of her photographs and excerpts from some of the stories she uncovered about the role of love in peoples’ lives.
Duke van Egmond, a guesthouse owner in La Montagne, Haute Saône, says of his partner, Annemick Couwenbergh, “We form a team. What I don’t know how to do, she does. We are stronger than one person. Her daughter is mine, and my daughter is hers. They say they are sisters.”
Charlotte Menet and Delphine Bonny met when they were 17-year-old camp counselors and are now trying to have a baby. Says Charlotte: “We love to play, run after each other like a cat and mouse. We love to dance, to lift each other up like ballet dancers in the kitchen. When she takes a shower, I sit on the stool and tell her about my day. When she is done, we swap.”
“There will always and only be Salomé,” says Jean-Loup Carrénard of his partner, Salomé Blechmans, but that doesn’t rule out the occasional threesome, which apparently keeps love alive for this couple with a four-year-old child.
Nicolas and Lucile Bernouis have been together for 24 years. “There is something sacred,” he says. “We don’t have to talk to understand each other. We often burst into laughter because I say a word, then she says another, and we are thinking the same thing.”
Rousselle’s efforts paid off with nearly a hundred stories about the impact of love on people’s lives. While their tales were not always positive, the antidote worked. “Love won for me,” she says. “These people brought me back to life. I saw beauty in all this disarray.”