CLOSE UP: Ruth Stoltenberg - Schengen

Ruth Stoltenberg lives in Hamburg, Germany. She worked as a television editor before turning her attention to photography.

The focus of Ruth's work is mostly on historical or abandoned places, and places in a state of upheaval, often resulting in long term and intensive investigations. Her projects are not intended to be purely documentary, but are the result of her personal examination of a place.

Ruth has published numerous books of her work, and a photobook of her newest project Schengen will be published in March 2018. The project has also won Ruth a number of awards.

We met Ruth through our BORDERS exhibition, in which she is currently exhibiting work from Schengen. We found the work timely and important, and wanted to share it more widely, so we invited Ruth along for a Close Up, where she explains the project in her own words…



I am pleased to present my newest project Schengen, and am very happy being part of the current Shutter Hub exhibition BORDERS at the Bridewell Theatre in London.

Schengen is a small Luxembourgian village at the border of France and Germany. Here, in the centre of Europe, the Schengen agreement to abolish intra-European border controls was signed in 1985 by the five EU member states France, Germany and the Benelux countries. In the meantime, 26 states have become part of the so-called Schengen area, which today is literally reaching its limits in view of the current refugee crisis in Europe.



I grew up in this border region in the 1960s and 1970s and have noticed that much has changed over the past few decades. In my photo project I was mainly interested in the influence this opening of borders had and still has on the different cultures and lifestyles of people from the three nations. Whether, apart from the different languages of the inhabitants, also visual differences in the villages are apparent. Whether, for example, national identities become evident based on houses, (front) gardens, streets or larger squares. Or whether this region, distinguished by viticulture and agriculture, still has its own unique, transnational charm.



Above all, it seems to be the younger generation that is living the benefits of this open Europe. In schools, workplaces and housing estates, nations and languages are becoming increasingly mixed. And while the new housing estates on the outskirts of the individual communities are very similar, time seems to have partly stood still in the heart of the villages.

I paid more attention to the small things of everyday life and less to the big features. However, I have narrowed down my project and concentrated on the three neighbouring border communities: Schengen in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Perl in Germany and Apach in France, as well as on smaller villages in the immediate vicinity.

The pictures shown here are part of a larger series and I am very happy that this work will be published as a photobook by Lecturis, Amsterdam in March 2018.



All images © Ruth Stoltenberg


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