The Lost Border
Photographs of the Iron Curtain

In 1985 I began a photo-documentation of the Iron Curtain, travelling across Europe along the former dividing line between East and West. The pictures were made in color with a 4x5 view camera, and describe the topography of the border with its fences, watchtowers, and no man's land. To my knowledge, this is the only comprehensive project of its kind dealing with the now-vanished Iron Curtain landscape.
The project was originally intended primarily as a documentation of the border landscape, but grew into a response to historical events when the East/West German border was unexpectedly opened in 1989. I photographed the gradual disintegration of the wall at the end of '89 and '90, and subsequently, I have photographed the remarkable changes occurring in Berlin, where the wall once cut through the city. November 9, 1999 will be the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Berlin wall.

The project was first exhibited in 1987 at the International Center of Photography in New York, and later versions of it have been exhibited in Amsterdam and in Reims, France. The Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art have acquired prints from the series.

The Lost Border website is divided into six major sections: Curtain, Wall, Opening, Ruins, Reconstruction, and Requiem. The last section is a series of photographs of a border memorial on the countryside near Helmstedt made in 1996. Also, I have included an article by Anthony Bailey, which originally accompanied a group of my photographs in MHQ magazine, and a letter-to-the-editor published in the New York Times in 1987.

The letter provides, I think, an interesting perspective on how we once thought about the Iron Curtain and the Berlin wall. It also shows some of my thinking about the subject, and points to what motivated me to begin the project in the first place. Neither I nor anyone else foresaw how quickly the border would be erased, but the fatalistic notion that it was virtually permanent--part of the furniture of Europe--was something I was never able to accept.
It took years to finally find a publisher for the Lost Border. I have dozens of rejections from both commercial and non-profit publishers. Although I am pleased with the results, thanks to the support of Princeton Architectural Press, the difficulties along the way were profound, monetarily and spiritually. All I can say is that I persevered.

Too much of the art world has become disengaged from the larger concerns of the public, and photojournalism, while providing a necessary window on the events of the day, rarely provides a longer, dispassionate, view of the larger issues. This project seeks to demonstrate a different way of looking at these issues by examining the social landscape and urban fabric.

Brian Rose

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