Philémon Barbier “Rien à perdre”

  • Exposition

Practical information

  • Date et heure
  • Location Galerie Le Château d'Eau
  • Public Tout Public
Philémon Barbier “Rien à perdre”

This exhibition documents how youngsters from working-class backgrounds forge their identities through rap music, which is an integral part of their daily lives.

This work was produced as part of the grande commande photographique (Major Photographic Commission), Radioscopie de la France: regards sur un pays traversé par la crise sanitaire (Radioscopy of France, focus on a country in the midst of a health crisis), for photojournalists launched by the Ministry of Culture and led by the Bibliothèque nationale de France (National Library of France).

A way of building a future

The contradictory images associated to rap are as striking as reductive and false. On the one hand, images of rappers promoting themselves by asserting a look, an identity and a distinctive feature, and on the other hand, images of violence and anecdotes, often conveyed by the media, which are shelved as miscellaneous news items. And, much like the rest of the music industry, the iconography often features portraits and photographs of live performances.

But let’s cut to the chase. Over just a few decades, rap has become the most popular form of music throughout the world. In France, it accounts for 65% of streams on streaming platforms, and therefore holds huge financial power. Born and rapidly adopted in working-class circles, its success inspires, and is seen by the younger generation as a means of social ascent and fulfilment. For the 10.6% of youngsters who, according to INSEE (National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies), are neither in school nor in training, rap music is seen as a way of building a future, especially as it does not necessarily require a significant initial financial outlay.

Philémon Barbier was able to steer clear of the stereotypes attached to rap music because he immersed himself amongst Toulouse’s young music industry, within a community in search of words, music, a lifestyle, . as well as a future. He succeeded in capturing intense moments of complicity, pause, excitement, daily life in fact, and ensured coherence by maintaining a chromatic range that is adorned with the colours of the night. In this male-dominated world, he, who is used to working with the press, knew how to seize significant moments to summarise the challenges arising from a situation that is far more complex than it first appears. And because a photograph, no matter how good, can’t tell the whole story, the images are accompanied by substantial texts that are much more than captions, and include reported words:

“In 2022, I documented the daily lives of youngsters, aged between 18 and 25, from a wide range of social and cultural backgrounds and with a variety of experiences. Some turn to politics, while others distance themselves from these matters, almost to the point of distrusting the institutions. Between union and disunity, this project focuses on the search for both a musical and a civic identity.”

Christian Caujolle, Artistic Advisor

Dollar, 20 – here on the left – and his friend Price, 22, on his right, in an avenue in the center of Toulouse, France, on November 25, 2022…
Shams, Taju and Eis of the band DeenCK, compose a song in Eis’s room in Toulouse, France, on December 14, 2022…

Born in 2000, Philémon Barbier developed a passion for photography and history from an early age. His photographic work is designed to provide a fresh perspective on world evolutions. He works across a range of timeframes, from current events to longer-term subjects, taking a more in-depth documentary approach, with the journalistic rigour and sensitivity needed to produce accurate results.

By shinning a light on the human subject, his photographs recount the story of others, their place in society, their intimacy, their story, their outlook, their emotions, in an attempt to bring out different perspectives on the surrounding world and its inner processes. As a result, he gravitated towards auteur photography, giving free rein to different interpretations. Thanks to this prism and by drawing on the dynamics that shape contemporary events, he recounts the stories of the people he meets. He focuses on social issues and is particularly interested in the living conditions of the younger population across the world, and the stories of civilians affected by war or social crisis. His work has been published in various media, including Le Monde, L’Obs, Le Pèlerin, Le JDD, La Croix, L’Hebdo, Courrier International and Mediapart. Philémon Barbier is also a member of SNJ (National Union of Journalists).

He graduated from the photojournalism course at EMI-CFD (School for Information Technology) under the guidance of Julien Daniel and Guillaume Herbaut in 2020, and co-founded the Hors Format collective. In 2022, he won the BNF’s (National Library of France) Grande commande nationale (Major National Commission) and the Bourse pour la nouvelle photographie urbaine (Grant for new urban photography) bolstered by Google and Dysturb at Visa pour l’image. In 2023, he won the CNAP (National Centre for Visual Arts) grant supporting contemporary documentary photography.

Major Photojournalism Commission

Radioscopy of France, focus on a country in the midst of a health crisis As part of the government’s plan to support the press industry, the Ministry of Culture entrusted the Bibliothèque nationale de France (National Library of France) with the launch of Grande commande photojournalisme (Major Photojournalism Commission)Radioscopie de la France: regards sur un pays traversé par la crise sanitaire (Radioscopy of France, focus on a country in the midst of a health crisis), for photojournalists. Two calls for projects, one launched in 2021 and the other in 2022, have enabled 200 winners to be selected based on their background and proposals. This project recognises and encourages contemporary creation in the field of photojournalism and press photography.


Hugo Carbonne, aka Specy Men, 22, on December 1, 2022 in his girlfriend’s car as they drive to hand out leaflets in downtown Toulouse, France, for his concert a few days later…