In 1963 President de Gaulle initiated a grand project, known as 'La Mission Racine', to develop a stretch of French coastline between Montpellier and Perpignan into a series of coastal resorts. Ahead of its time, innovative architects were hired for each town to construct unique and unusual spaces adapted to the local environment. It aimed to turn the area into a holiday destination centred around leisure while offering an alternative source of income locally.
The project has undoubtedly been an economic success, however, La Mission Racine was not only about enriching the region. It included an 18% quota of social housing to allow more French citizens to take advantage of their ‘congé payé' (paid holidays). There was a real determination to provide an alternative to the expensive Cote d'Azur without the excesses of similar developments further south in Spain.
I first visited the area, while living in France, in 2007 and was struck by how different it looked to the picturesque villages often associated with the south of France. From 2010 to 2015, I made regular trips to the seven towns involved documenting how the area looks today, 50 years on. Although some of the original promise has faded and the infrastructure is beginning to show its age, the central values, particularly the idea of offering affordable summer holidays for the average citizen, remain key to how the area is managed.
About the Artist
Shane Lynam is an Irish photographer based in Dublin. His recent project Fifty High Seasons won the Gallery of Photography's Solas Ireland Award in November 2015, which included exhibitions at the Gallery of Photography in Dublin and at Fotohof Gallery in Salzburg. Fifty High Seasons is also currently on view as part of Circulations Festival in Paris. In both 2014 and 2015, Lynam was a finalist in the Renaissance Photography Prize. His project Contours, a break with a pattern of sensationalist journalism often used to depict the 'banlieue' of Paris, was nominated for the Prix Pictet in 2015.
Recent online and offline publications include: The Guardian, Der Spiegel, The British Journal of Photography, Fisheye Magazine, Flak Photo, Selektor Magazine, UnlessYouWill and the collective book New Irish Works.