Borders are a human construct – a fact no one can deny. They are shifting and evolve with history. Nonetheless, we gradually forget that they were originally defined by people marking the landscape and creating geographical, cultural or social divisions. They respond to a need for simplification when it comes to defining the world: what is inside is “Us” and what is outside is the “Other”. Borders are the legacy and manifestation of slow cultural, conceptual and technological constructions: of languages, currencies, fences, identity papers, cameras, surveillance satellites… and numerous other inventions that structure our sense of belonging.
In this work produced in France, photographer Maxime Taillez establishes a dialogue between these complex notions that constitute borders – physical or immaterial – and invites us to reconsider our own relationship with this pivotal notion that defines both a boundary and an opening. Growing up in northern France, the photographer crossed the border between France and Belgium so often that he almost forgot it was there. In Europe, the Schengen Zone means goods and people residing in the territory enjoy significant freedom of movement. Boundaries have disappeared and territories that were once separated are now linked. Individuals move around to enjoy the advantages of one area or another. Tellingly, the no man’s lands around customs posts have become tourist destinations, with clusters of duty-free shopping outlets. Nature also reclaims its rights. Here, visitors are invited to explore a long-term project covering all of France. In this photographic series, they will discover a variety of natural or artificial landscapes, where only tiny traces of these borders remain, prompting us to question these dividing lines.
The project began in 2012 and is still ongoing today. Taillez travels across borders on foot or by car, using his 4×5 photographic chamber to document he changes and adaptations of the area and the people who live there.