“I was born in Guinea, west Africa. I grew up in Paris but I became a man when I moved to Marseille.
I moved to the north side of Marseille five years ago. It’s an area which is mostly public housing, the poorest part of the city, known for having the toughest neighborhoods in France and some of the most dangerous in Europe. I used to come here as a kid for the holidays so I knew every kid my age when I arrived.”
“When I started hanging out in Marseille one thing struck me. The people from the north side and the people from the city center – where the tourists and the rich are – never blend together, not even the youth. They never encounter each other, and the fact that they don’t communicate leads to the creation of stereotypes. Coming from Paris, though I wasn’t from the richest part, I was used to hanging out with people from all social conditions. When I first got into photography, a year and a half ago, it made me want to make work in which my friends would not be pictured as brainless thugs but as young men growing together, facing struggles and adversity in their own way, creating their own culture, hobbies, style, and sometimes just being products of their environment.”
“When you are a young person growing up in these neighborhoods you feel cut off from society and from the rest of the world because it feels like there’s almost no way out. The feeling of brotherhood is very important. Your friends become like your family. I’ve tried to stay away from all the stereotypes about these neighborhoods in France in my work, and instead focus on the joyful moments we share, to picture young people from my area not like circus animals but in a fair way: to value them and show their beauty, the love that is often hidden by the media or by themselves. This series of photos is about love, brotherhood, friendship, smiles and empty moments. Not letting life and your condition knock you down. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
Lounseny Soumah is an artist and photographer in Marseille. His debut exhibition, featuring work including the series featured above, will open on February 21 at Espace Lieu Kommun, 52 Rue de la Palud, 13001 Marseille, France. For more information, see Soumah’s Instagram.
- Text and PhotographyLounseny Soumah