TOULON. Alejandra Carles-Tolra “Rencontres avec des inconnus” 21 march – 25 june 2019. Outdoors exhibition at Rue des Arts.

The outdoors exhibition includes unpublished work from Alejandra Carles Tolra series “The Bears” and Saving Face’.  Rencontres avec des inconnus organized by Le Liberté, scène nationale de Toulon

“The Bears” is a series of photographs portraying women who are part of Brown University’s rugby team. While being part of an intellectually exigent environment, these students have decided to also join a very physically demanding sport. A sport that will introduce them to a community that will not only challenge them to push their limits as athletes, but will strengthen them both physically and mentally. I am drawn to portraying the young women who join the team, not only as a sport, but as a way to be introduced to a community with a strong identity where they can find an identity of their own. Through my portraits, I aim to bring a broader understanding of their group identity. Women who join the sport are commonly pictured to fit a masculine stereotype. But what does it mean to be a rugby girl? Is there such a thing as a rugby girl? Or are they just girls who play rugby? Described as a sport of “elegant violence”, rugby has a complex identity that is often simplified. In my photographs, I’m interested in enhancing the dualities that define the sport and the athletes: violence and grace, weakness and strength, masculine and feminine.

With most of their faces covered they all become alike, they all become one. ‘Saving Face’ is a collection of portraits taken in the streets of Vietnam that aims to comment on the environmental, beauty and class concerns that are arising in Vietnam’s changing consciousness.

In the streets of Vietnam’s major cities young men and women walk around wearing face masks. With most of their faces covered they all become alike, they all become one. Yet the range of designs and shapes reveal personality clues that highlight individuality, bringing the viewer closer to imagine the person who lies beneath the mask.

In the transition towards a fast-developing country Vietnam has witnessed an enormous flow of people migrating from the countryside to large cities. Consequently, the number of motor vehicles that jam its cities has increased immensely, causing an alarming rate of pollution. The new generation have decided to take action and protect themselves from being exposed on a daily basis to the contaminated air with the mask. However, the mask plays a dual role, since its popularity has also grown due to an increasing concern among the youth to have pale skin. The obsession for white skin – a sign of beauty among many asian cultures, especially women – has eventually reached Vietnam’s growing middle class.

Théâtre Liberté Grand Hôtel, Place de la Liberté, 83000 Toulon FRANCE

Image: “Saving Face” Toulon. Alejandra Carles Tolra