The series Fifty High Seasons by the Irish photographer Shane Lynam is featured at the Bertrand Grimont Gallery in Paris. The photographs, made along the Languedoc-Roussillon coast, between Montpellier and Perpignan, are an exquisite and earnest testament to the French social and architectural history of large resort areas.
Documentary photography of urban spaces
Before obtaining a degree in documentary photography, Shane Lynam studied political science and economics. The latter disciplines are undoubtedly the locus of interest in his work. As he explains in the online magazine We Are Our Choices: “When I’m photographing spaces I’m interested in the history that formed that space and whether we can see the layers of political and economic history in the buildings and the surfaces.”
This holds true in Fifty High Seasons, a project that seeks out the traces of the governmental “Mission Racine” launched in the early 1960s. The project aimed to revitalize the Languedoc-Roussillon coastline and attract a new type of tourist: the middle class. “Mission Racine” created extensive infrastructure (residential complexes, public services, resorts) and, along with it, new ways of inhabiting the landscape. Lynam focuses on the stamp of time on this architecture which looked to American culture for inspiration. Some happy effects of kitsch notwithstanding, Lynam manages to convey the dialog between architectonic elements and contemporary society.
The photographic medium as a means to express the mutability of things
In contrast to Martin Parr’s irony or any denunciation of standardization, Shane Lynam attends to the landscape and its interstices with tenderness and sensitivity. By opting for softer colors the artist avoids passing any value judgment or pointing fingers. He often uses cropped or very wide framing which shows that what is captured here will too, in time, pass. Lynam thus seems to suggest that there is no inevitability, but rather ways of inhabiting that become transformed, or else stories that take shape and come undone.
An oeuvre that draws on multiple cultural references
The work of Shane Lynam belongs to a long tradition of photographers who have chosen the French coastline as their subject (Bernard Plossu, Jacques Filiu) and who are interested in banal, transitory landscapes (Bertrand Stofleth). His project is also akin to that of Raymond Depardon of his color period. Lynam mentions Depardon on several occasions, because it was at an exhibition devoted to the work of the photojournalists and filmmaker that Lynam decided to adopt photography as his medium and trade. The two photographers also share a sociological approach. Lynam addresses the issues of banality, intermediate zone, and habitat; however, he does it with an added advantage: his sensitivity to peripheral spaces is informed by his background in political theory, economics, and history. This approach is also evident in the masterful series Contours, which shows Parisian suburbs through the prism of the extant natural areas.
Shane Lynam, « Fifty High Seasons »
From May 2 to June 8, 2019
Galerie Bertrand Grimont, 42-44 rue de Montmorency, 75003 Paris