Dublin-born Daragh Soden wins Hyères Grand Prix of the Photography Jury for 2017
It’s the ultimate insider fashion festival. An annual pilgrimage to this historic seaside resort at the most southern tip of the Côte d’Azur for the Hyères festival of Fashion and Photography. And the key winner for photography this year was an Irishman, Daragh Soden, a London-based but Irish-born photographer who series Young Dubliners captures the self-confidence of 21st century Dublin in stark contrast to the dark neo-realism of Ireland’s literature and music. Despite the tough economy and government austerity measures, the young people seen in Soden’s visual poem are bright and blissfully self-confident as they make the transition to adulthood.
Soden received his award Sunday night in the closing ceremony of the festival, after a runway show inside the Salon des Pesquiers featuring six looks each from the 10 finalists up for the fashion award. In a surprise decision, the top fashion prize went to Swiss born Vanessa Schindler.
However, like for fashion, Hyères has also become a launch pad for photographic talent, closely watched by agents, fashion houses and magazine editors.
“The whole thing is amazing really,” said Soden, one of four photographers to win prizes.
Two prizes – Priz du Grand Public and Priz de la Photographie American Vintage - went to Luis Alberto Rodriguez, a ballet dancer and self-trained photographer who shot wrapped human figures in muddy fields.
Though if the 10 photo finalists had an over-riding theme, it was a desire to document cultures or peer groups within their native countries. All told, an impressive vintage and tribute to Hyères’ ability to continually discover new talent and ideas.
France’s Nolwenn Brod was a prizewinner too for her moody black and white shots of small town France seen through the arrival of a young couple with baby leaving a big city.
This year the jury was presided over by Tim Walker, the British photographer famed for his surrealist fantasies, love of posh London settings and weakness for Restoration pomp. His jury – that included uber model Liya Kebede and Paris sophisticate Jerry Stafford - chose from 10 finalists, from eight different countries.
In an undoubtedly fine vintage, one of the more notable finalists was Sofia Okkonen, a Finish lady whose painterly imagery of models in costumes were realized by repeatedly scanning images in a modern form of recycling.
Also impressing were Themba Mbuyisa, who shot friends and family in his native South Africa frequently wearing sophisticated urban clothing in rural settings. All told, a striking contemporary document of contemporary South African identity.
While German duo Cordula Heins & Caroline Speisser concentrated on what they saw as the tragicomedy of asylum for refugees, seen in photos of emigrants practically trapped in rooms over stuffed with residues of German consumerism.
From the USA, Nancy Newbury surveyed her own backyard – in her case a dreamlike vision of nationalism. After studying in Texas A&M University, she reworked images from 1960s Spaghetti westerns in a series named Smoke Bombs and Border Crossings, echoing and even mocking nationalism with school children dressed in colonial Mexican uniforms and bandito gear worthy of Sergio Leone.
Finally, French born Paul Rousteau had real impact with hyper-color Impressionistic images of flowers, objet d’arts and human figures, blurred and really rather beautiful.
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