Toulon is a city in southern France with a large military harbour on the Mediterranean coast. It is also a city with a rich history: it was Toulon that Napoléon Bonaparte captured from the Anglo-Spanish forces in 1973, releasing the city to Maximilien Robespierre; the man who declared the motto of the French Revolution as “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité ”. It was this history that Irish photographer Daragh Soden set out to capture while simultaneously reflecting its modern personality when he travelled there to make a portrait of the city.
Part of the book series Portrait de Ville, Daragh’s trip was commissioned by Be-Poles to continue its series which already includes portraits of Stockholm, Nice and Téhéran. “I had never been to Toulon before and so I had no idea what to expect. But, after a short visit and lots of research, I had a good idea of the work I would make,” Daragh tells It’s Nice That. “I was very keen to create a story that reflected the reality of the city and its people,” he continues.
Last time we wrote about Daragh it was his thoughtful portraits of young Dubliners which caught our attention. Now, two years later, it’s clear that Daragh’s finesse when it comes to photography enables him to encapsulate the personality of any place. His images of Toulon remind us of hazy summer days, boasting a patriotic colour palette of reds, blues and whites in contrast to the tree-lined concrete streets of his Dublin series. Despite this, Daragh has still captured moments akin to ones he captured in Young Dubliners. The portraits are introspective, allowing the city’s people to paint their own portrait of their home.
Visiting initially to scope out the place, Daragh captured the city on two occasions; once in the summer and once in the winter. “Toulon initially seemed like a very ordinary and boring city when I first arrived but I quickly realised very interesting aspects of the city,” Daragh recalls. From images of Toulon’s massive harbour to its right-wing political sensibilities, Daragh also turned his camera on the immigrant community of North Africans that now call the city home; at once capturing the city’s traditional and contemporary facets.
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