A few days ago a crowd gathered on the lawns of the Villa Noailles to celebrate the young designers and photographers competing at the annual festival of fashion and photography in Hyères, France. It might have been an opportunity to forget the current election turmoil in the country -- the intensity of the time between the two ballots that will decide the future. But it happened differently -- the director of the festival, Jean-Pierre Blanc, gave a solemn and committed speech on the opening night, to remind everyone of what is at stake. The mostly Anglo-Saxon photography jury, chaired by photographer Tim Walker, who shot the latest issue of i-D, and including designers Molly Goddard and Charles Jeffrey, rewarded Irish photographer Daragh Soden and, by doing so, reminded everyone of the global implications of each country's specific political struggles.
The photographer's series,Young Dubliners, takes a look at youth in his home country, and echoed the recent cataclysmic events that have struck Europe -- rising xenophobia, an intensified introspection, and the closing of borders. The 27-year-old Daragh was confronted head-on by this new atmosphere: "I grew up in a country in full social and economical prosperity," he explains about the Irish economic boom years. "Then in 2008, everything got out of control. The country went into recession, the deficit increased, companies closed, unemployment wreaked havoc. That period really influenced my identity." It influenced his photographic practice too, but instead of narrowly focusing on obvious struggles, he captures the complexity and variety of life, which yes, includes Ireland's economic deprivation, but also the irrepressible optimism of those on the cusp of adulthood. "I wanted to celebrate youth through this series," he explains. "I wanted to catch youth\s aura, to reflect its carelessness, its vulnerability as well as its strength, those qualities that you find in every generation, despite the passing of time."
Daragh's imagery was displayed in the Villa Noailles along with handwritten text on the walls that points to the way that the experience of being young remains a kind of static shared experience, despite outside circumstances: "I collected memories, anecdotes from my own adolescence. When they are arranged side by side, the text and the pictures tell a single narrative reflecting the universal themes that are specific to young people: boredom, flirts, the feeling of being invincible and lower than low the day after."
Blurring the boundaries between autobiography and reportage, the former documentary photography student entangles the personal with the historical. His portraits are never intrusive and deliberately distant, they reveal a spirited vision of Dublin youth in the face of a divisive political situation. "The youth I photographed have only experienced this crisis situation and they will pay for their parents' mistakes. It was essential for me to acknowledge them by dedicating this series to them." In the context of the Brexit, the fact that Daragh's photographs reject the currently promoted individualist values is especially strong. Tim Walker saw this series as "an act of bravery and honesty". The American graphic designer Ruth Ansel described it as "the world of a person who takes risks." It's further proof that kindness and tolerance are beautiful forms of resistance for a new generation of artists.
Text Malou Briand Rautenberg