The French term “terrain vague” is used by architectural critics for certain conditions that, in many different forms, are present in the contemporary city. On the one hand, ”vague” means vacant, empty, free of activity, unproductive and even obsolete. On the other hand, “vague” means vague as to imprecision, uncertainty and the impossibility of identifying boundaries.
“Terrain vague” refers to places where it seems the apparently-forgotten memory of the past dominates the present. These places are external sites, strangers, falling outside the circuits of productive structures. The emptied inner islands of activity and rest are outside the urban dynamics, simply becoming depopulated areas, unsafe and unproductive.
– Gabri Solera, Madrid, Spain
My work is about landscapes, whether they occur in the urban setting or in the desert-scapes of my childhood. I am interested in the architecture of space, created in its textures and psychology in varying degrees of scale. I explore the alienation I sometimes find in the nighttime — the solitude and the respite, the inviting darkness and the sometimes-inhibiting nature of the city.
Great writers can coerce readers into expressing and filling out their own individual contexts by providing an ephemeral and otherworldly canvas in which to find and expand their view of the landscape. I try to emulate them.
— Claire Harlan, Los Angeles, USA
This body of work, titled New Line, documents the space inhabited by a small alternative community in the West of Ireland. By exploring the private world created by the people that live here, this work adopts a silent and contemplative tone and seeks to engage with this space and its inhabitants, rather than expose it. Through carefully-negotiated access and many discussions, this work becomes a catalyst of my experience and the time spent making the work. Carried out over the period of a year, the images reveal the harsh depths of winter and the warm fertility of summer. The images tell the stories of the people that belong here, but only ever show a glimpse of their presence.
— Robert Ellis, Ballyvaughan, Ireland
One For the Mind, Two For the Eye and Seven (plus or minus two) for the World started on the road while working on a previous project and makes a direct reference to George Miller’s paper from 1956, in which the limits of working memory are addressed and the number seven is proposed as a reference number for the amount of elements that an individual can pay attention to.
The aim of this project was to combine contradictory landscapes in a diptych while proposing a speculative formulation of the ontological nature of contradictions, the importance of attention in perception and the observer’s movement required to articulate contradictions.
Each diptych in the series proposes two contradictory images that contaminate each other (juxtaposed and fading) to create a place in-between that emphasizes their similarities while retaining their differences. The union of the frames reaffirms the autonomy of each image and their implicit relation, which can only be answered by an observer. We, in our embodiment, access the world instead of representing it, and accessing the world requires movement to allow the articulation of ontological contradictions, in a world that is also in movement.
— Miguel Santos, London, UK & Lisbon, Portugal
Periphery is a project whose purpose is the study and analysis of the outskirts of the contemporary metropolis. Every city in the world has characteristics that make up its own personality. It is in these settings where each and every one of them are similar and show part of their bowels and their functioning. This is an area of vital importance for developing and publishing these cities.
This work is portraying these environments and the evident traces and remnants of human beings — but the human figure is absent. Knowing these environments we also understand what we do and how we do it. It is a good way to understand our own identity.
— Carlos Bravo, Castellón, Spain
My photographs illuminate an intimate experience with the subject. Each photograph I take is depicted in clear, intricate detail, with forms, lines and patterns precisely arranged within the composition. A consistent regard for clarity, tonal quality and the infinite nuance of detail pervades my work. This gives me the freedom to achieve the images I desire. I create photographs where the light appears invisible — so as to neutralize its role in the appearance of things. I choose to work in the intriguing beauty of shaded light as sunshine creates shadows, highlights, and accents on the surface that commandeer the eye. Revering detail, tonality and clarity I decided to use a cumbersome 8″x10″ Deardorff field camera, a precision instrument that is based on early 19th-century designs. The large camera with its formality is a device that grants my subject matter dignity.
— Leon West, Cardiff, Wales, UK
A neighborhood transformed by development is the central theme of this ongoing series, titled Sleeping Giant | 11101 Rezoned. Living and working in and around Long Island City’s defunct factories and industrial yards, where buildings are being raised and rebuilt into luxury co-ops at a head-spinning rate, I witness the methodical eradication of a working class way of life. I find myself dismayed by the quick progression of high rises that are erupting skyward along the waterfront; quickly, inevitably obliterating the view of Manhattan beyond. And yet, I find myself drawn first visually then socio-politically to the power these monoliths project set beside the defunct factories and old tenements: immense size versus outdated design, financial power versus fixed-income strongholds, and new possibilities versus old ideals.
For me, these images function not only as a record and homage to a vanishing place and time, but as metaphors for the workingman’s dilemma. They search for a dialogue between subjugation and advancement, and seek to illustrate the often-unsung sacrifices that are made in the interest of progress.
— Ber Murphy, New York City, USA
The photograph above belongs to a series called Island, which is an exercise of exploration. Coming from southern Europe, the Caribbean island turns into an alien space, where everyday objects lose all meaning. In less than 20 square kilometers, we witness a parade of disconnected pieces: the signs of local history and the constant European and North American presence scattered throughout the exuberant jungle. The tropical paradise is still there, although partially hidden behind an infrastructure that no longer seems to belong to any particular place.
Landscape represents here an endless canvas; it is a concept by and of itself. In fact, the interactions that derive from the place and, therefore, from the images, do not matter. The place and the camera are both tools of personal research, almost biographical.
— Juande Jiménez, Malaga, Spain
In this project, titled Even the Mountains are Shells, I chose to focus on the idea of boundary and co-existence between the built and natural environment. I also wanted to convey a feeling of the relative isolation and the at times difficult way of life. With the traditional income streams gone and a heavy reliance on tourism the balance is finely weighted. It was only through repeated visits that I began to notice the subtle cracks in the tourist picture. Things that a casual visitor wouldn’t pay a great deal of attention to I made my focus. The title of the work references the empty shop fronts, encroachment of nature and the notion of the land as a commodity, reliant on man to be re-imagined to another use. There is also an element of my own personal response to the area. Having made a previous project (Cynefin) in the same place I wanted to see things from a different perspective.
— John Wellings, Swansea, Wales, UK
This work is driven by the need to study the blinding normalcy of the present.
Blind Views depicts everyday urban scenes in different cities and investigates the ways in which buildings, signs, monuments and streets influence the way we live and apprehend our environment. I rely on the specificity of the photographic trace to reveal the political, historical and economic importance of these markers.
The series documents the visual infrastructure of spaces that come across as neutral, but that are actually heavily mediated by culture. I am also interested in the aesthetic transformation of a place by the mere act of picturing it.
— Arturo Soto, Panama City, Panama