Postcard from Toulouse

The French language is known for its often elaborate and poetic quality. Its law courts are palaces of justice; its water towers castles of water. The former chateau d’eau in Toulouse now houses a photography gallery. In the two chambers, photographs are set against red brick and, on the lower floor, amongst industrial machinery. When we visited, the main exhibition was Vincen Beeckman’s ‘Je pense que que vous devez être plusieurs’. Reminiscent of Martin Parr’s depictions of working-class life in Britain, Beeckman’s photos document subjects that might appear ordinary, banal, or indeed, not worth photographing. The exhibition draws together a series on an old couple; another of a family’s leisure time at Halloween and a budget beach resort; and photos and objects from Chinese restaurants in Belgium. The pictures provoke mixed emotions; they challenge what we expect from photography. They are not aspirational or idealistic images; rather they present a reality that is at once mundane and special, happy and sad. It forces us to confront our position as viewer and our own prejudices about the lives we want to see photographed, those we think worthy of documenting. In theory, social media opens up photography and other documentary forms to the masses and allows us to showcase our own ordinary as exceptional. And yet, its evolution and that of the accompanying technology has shifted the permitted aesthetics. Gone are the grainy MySpace images of emo haircuts and albums full of single nights out on Facebook. Pre-sets, editing tools, and algorithms mean our feeds are filled with curated and alternated images. Others’ lives appear through rose-tinted glasses. It is no coincidence that pink-ish hues dominate the preset colour. But maybe that’s what we want to see, how we want to see.

We visited Toulouse as international house sitters in between gigs in January 2019. The city is nicknamed la ville rose or the pink city due to its distinctive brick work. If you’re interested in becoming international house sitters, check out our house sitting tips pages. We’ve found nearly all of our house sits with and we really recommend joining the site. You can receive 20% off membership by using our affiliate referral code: RAF157338 (apply it on checkout).

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