After two days in Paris, the next step of my journey begins, and I catch a TGV train down to Aix-en-Provence to visit the French colonial overseas archives held there, before going on to Marseilles. Upon descending at Aix’s TGV station, you have to catch a short shuttle service In order to reach the city centre. A coach is handily waiting there for me when I arrive, but after sitting down I become slightly perturbed by the ridiculously oversized dome that houses a CCTV camera overhead. I get some sort of symbolic revenge by taking a snap of it on my phone and smugly feel a moral victor. But the camera is still there.
The South of France can feel very differently from the North, and although Paris is one of my favourite places and I am very fond of Northern France, I think I’ll always have a special connection with Southern France. At the age of eighteen, I spent six months teaching English in a small town called Sommières, between the cities of Montpellier and Nîmes, and I have returned to that region several times since. Marseilles lies to the East of there just along the Mediterranean coast and has always held a magnetic attraction for me. In many ways I couldn’t be further from home in France’s second city, but Marseilles’ perennial underdog status compared to rival Paris isn’t so dissimilar to the rivalry between Manchester and London. The rather crucial difference being that Marseilles has a beach.
During my stay I meet with the photographer Yves Jeanmougin (http://www.yvesjeanmougin.com/), whose book Marseille/Marseilles (1992) bore witness to the city’s famous ethnic diversity by including photos taken of its residents from a wide variety of ethnic origins throughout the 1980s. Some of Yves’s recent work on the life and memory of the French Algerian poet Jean Sénac (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Sénac) and contemporary Algeria will be shown as part of an exhibition we’re organising for the Cornerhouse (http://www.cornerhouse.org/) in 2011. No doubt he would have unable to resist taking some shots of John’s case had it made the journey south with me.
Original Image © Joseph McGonagle, 2009
Processing and Interpretation © John Perivolaris, 2009