In the photographs of Josef Schulz we are reminded of the physical traces of borders and how architecture can be a distinct demarcation between one country and another. For his Übergang (German for “crossing”) series, Schulz photographed disused military checkpoints and border stations across Europe. After the establishment of the European Union, many highly guarded borders became irrelevant. In photographing these empty symbols of divide, the artist draws attention to the physical traces of borders—many of which no longer exist—and how difficult they are to erase. He explains, “Borders were lines, drawn not only across territories but also through our heads.” Making an architectural structure the primary focus, Schulz digitally manipulates an image to blur the background, slightly removing the structure from its physical location and making the landscape unspecific and exchangeable. Schulz states that his work is personally significant: “I grew up in Poland, a country whose territory has been repeatedly redefined in the course of history. The border police have now disappeared from our frontiers too, and the border stations seem quite harmless today—but they will continue to conjure up unsettling images in our minds for many years to come.”
Schulz was born in 1966 in Bischofsburg, Poland, and he studied both art and business in Düsseldorf, Germany. He studied with Bernd Becher and earned a master’s degree with Thomas Ruff at the Art Academy in Düsseldorf, where he still lives and works. He has won a multitude of grants and awards, including the Kodak and Large Format Inkjet Award and an Onomato Düssedorf Video and Animation Grant. He has shown in multiple solo and group exhibitions and was included in the 2016 (Infra) Structure exhibition at Lannan Foundation.