As legend has it, several galleys arriving from the ancient Greek city of Phocaea made landfall in 600BC upon the shores of Lacydon Creek, now the Old Port of Marseille, France. That very day, the king of the native tribe inhabiting Lacydon Creek was to marry off his daughter, Gyptis, to a native suitor. It just so happens that Gyptis, upon the Greek’s arrival, falls for Protis, leader of the expedition from Phocaea, and their marriage marks the founding of Massilia, present-day Marseille.
Some 2,600 years later photographer John Mack takes to the streets of Lacydon Creek—now known as Marseille’s Vieux Port—a vibrant, rugged, port whose evolution over the course of time has stayed true to its founding legend of foreign immigrants posed with the task of confronting native identities. The photographs Mack made in the midst of the city’s latent, explosive energy are the subject of a new book, At Their Home: Marseille, published by powerHouse Books.
Before being European, or French for that matter, Marseille is first Marseillais, and any visitor is indeed in “their house.” Comprised of 100 black-and-white street photographs taken between 2011 and 2016, “Mack’s imagery challenges us to reflect upon our own identities and any inherent impediments they may pose in the merging with our native selves,” writes the publisher in a statement. “Who,” asks Mack, “are YOU, chez eux?”