2015-09-14 Valerio Vincenzo’s project explores the landscape of a Europe that’s chosen to allow freedom of movement over the past twenty years, and he’s shot it all using vintage Hasselblad film cameras.
At a time when freedom of movement across Europe is very much in the headlines Valerio Vincenzo (who himself chooses to live either in Paris, Milan or The Netherlands) is committed to a long-term project documenting the 16,500 kilometres of EU borders that have, for the past twenty years, been largely redundant.
Germany Austria border, Jungholz, 2012.
Since the Schengen Agreement in 1995 it’s been possible for the majority of EU residents not just to cross freely between member countries but also to live and work in many of them if they so choose, something that Valerio describes as “probably the most important historical event in Europe since World War II.”
Believing passionately in this freedom of movement Valerio decided to celebrate it through an extensive photographic project that’s he’s now been undertaking for the past eight years. This has involved him visiting a number of locations, such as abandoned customs houses and quiet beaches and woods that form the border between different countries, with the aim of questioning through his images the authenticity of geographical boundaries and national identities. All of his pictures have been shot with vintage Hasselblad film cameras, and it’s one of the self-set parameters that have helped Valerio to maintain a consistent and individual look throughout his work.
Spain-Portugal border, next to Soutelinho da Raia, 2010.
“I’m using two cameras,” he says, “a 500C/M dating from 1982 and a 1964 500C. Although the C/M is the newer of the two it’s the C that I use the most, and the reason for this is very personal: I just like the sound it makes when I press the shutter. I enjoy the process of being constrained by a maximum of 12 pictures on a roll of film, which makes me think more about what I’m doing, and I’m also glad that I can’t visualise my images instantly. I use digital a lot when I’m on press assignments and, while it is comforting to be able to see what you’ve shot on the spot, it can also be quite distracting.”
France Belgium border, custom house reconverted in a Leonidas chocolate shop, road D60 east of Bray-Bunes, 2007.
Valerio is now preparing to challenge his philosophy, however, by pairing a Hasselblad CFV-50c CMOS digital back with his 500CM, and he’s excited about what this combination might allow him to achieve. “The ability to work with high ISO speeds using this back is the main attraction for me,” he says. “At the moment if the light changes then I have no alternative but to switch films, which I’m uncomfortable about doing. The back will allow me to simply change my ISO setting and to carry on, and it would be a great upgrade.”
Poland Germany border, between Swinoujscie and Seebad Heringsdorf, 2012.
Poland Lithuania border, between Berzniki and Pazapsiai, 2010.
Borderline: The Frontiers of Peace has been turned into an open-air exhibit of 50 large format pictures, which is on show at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris from September 7-30, 2015, and if funding can be found it will ultimately also be turned into a book.