Daragh Soden’s New Book Captures The Spirit Of Dublin’s Youth

Ten years ago, photographer Daragh Soden turned his lens towards the balmy, lingering summer days of a youth-run Dublin. Inadvertently, the images he subsequently captured became a sunlit window into the Irish capital’s morphing soul at the time, coloured by themes of transition and resilience. Positioning a generation of adolescents grappling with shifting socio-economic conditions at its centre, the Young Dubliners series became an instant classic. Now, a decade on, the Irish native is commemorating the three summers he spent shooting the city’s youth culture with a book that features both published and unpublished images. With an introduction by esteemed Irish author Colin Barrett, the newly released monograph is a love letter to Dublin’s innocence and authenticity. 

Hindsight can be a wonderful thing, and for Soden, the series has given him a means by which to assess how youth culture has shape-shifted over the years. “Since [the start of the Young Dubliners project], the youth of Dublin seem to be even more engaged with the world around them,” Soden says. “Whether it be issues of climate change, consent, immigration or infrastructure, the youth of Dublin (and Ireland) seem to be leading the way with purposeful and pragmatic attitudes.” When asked what it was about the summer that drew him into shooting the city’s youth, Soden explains, “Summer is when we all let our real selves out. That long stretch in the evening that lets you hang out late at the harbour before class in the morning, before working life is on the horizon. There is a bitter-sweetness to it. It’s the bitter-sweetness of youth, and it’s something I try to capture in the book.”

That “bitter-sweetness” Soden talks about is the essence of one of the series’ most famous photos – a tangerine-tinged shot of a young couple at the back of the bus. When asked whether he was aware of the longevity the image would prove to have when he took it, Soden replies, “I had no idea! I was a young photographer then and I was nervous to ask the cool couple at the back of the bus if I could take a picture. I shot one roll of film as the bus swerved around corners, sending me flying on more than one occasion. But it was the very first frame that had ‘the shot’. It was the beginning, in more ways than one. It was the beginning of the Young Dubliners series and it may have been the beginning of my career too.” 

What the photo of the couple on the bus proves is that Soden has a keen eye for subjects that are going to resonate with his audience, even when he doesn’t realise it. Speaking on what factors are at play when he decides what or who to shoot, Soden says, “An ideal subject is not a subject but a person. The ideal one is one that you want to look at again, and again, not because of some preconceived idea of beauty, but because of some unexplained intrigue, something real and something relatable, some kind of magic in the mundane.”

Young Dubliners isn’t Soden’s only revered series. Throughout his long-standing career, projects such as Ladies & Gentlemen, a portrait-focused exploration of gender performance, and Toulon, a sun-soaked ode to the significance of the port city both today and throughout history, have garnered critical acclaim. Pursuing these projects has led Soden to a wide range of countries across the globe, giving him the unique opportunity to compare and contrast what youth culture is like in each. When asked about the recurring themes he’s noticed, Soden says, “The youth in all of the countries that I have been lucky to travel to or to shoot in have all blown me away by how engaged and how highly self-educated they are. From Galway to Ghana to Peckham to Paris, the youth seem to be more and more capable of standing up for their beliefs on the big stage. Something that is hinted at in Young Dubliners, is how much of their future rests within their own hands.”

‘Young Dubliners’ is now available for purchase from Soden’s website, herePhotography by Daragh Soden. 


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