A photographic exploration of cultural identity in European border areas
As an island, Britain's coast is its physical border. Indeed, the border facing Europe at Dover, dramatic as it is, has always been presented as an iconic image; both welcoming and repelling foreigners. Now, with Brexit supposedly 'done' and populism and nationalism on the rise in Europe, borders are going up both physically and mentally and the freedom of movement that we have enjoyed for many years and which has made our continent cohesive and accessible, seems under threat. So instead of retreating behind the fastness of the White Cliffs and pulling up the drawbridge, I want to venture out to some European borderlands to investigate who we are as Europeans.
The Borderlands Project explores concepts of cultural and national identity in selected areas of Europe where historical and political borders have either changed or been fluid due to war or politics or a combination of both.
Does the architecture change? Are there any signs in the landscape to indicate that we are now in Germany or Spain, or Greece, even though the border is only short distance away? Are there different farming methods? What do people eat? Are people bilingual? Do they identify bi=culturally or mono-culturally? Do the interiors of people's homes reflect their inhabitants' cultural roots? These are just some of the questions that pique my curiosity and that I hope get answers to.
The intention is to undertake a photographic exploration of the landscape and architecture of these areas, as well as the people belonging to the minority groups on each side of the border, to discover how they identify, culturally, socially and possibly also politically.
This is an ongoing project that is pretty much a labour of love. I'm a committed European and believe that the UK's future lies in collaboration with rather than opposition to our larger neighbour. I'm also a linguist, so language and culture fascinate me. I was brought up in the north east, close to the Scottish border sand spent almost 30 years in Denmark, a country whose troubled relationship with Germany also intrigues me.
But let's start with the Anglo-Scottish border country, which isn't really on the list but I grew up here, so I thought I'd add a few images for nostalgia's sake.
Then we move on to Denmark/Germany and a little from the French/Spanish border. There are explanatory notes on all images.