Drawing on recent work by novelist Michel Houellebecq and photographer Raymond Depardon, this article examines the relationship between visual culture, spatial change and modernization in contemporary France. Investigating how Houellebecq foregrounds the visual representation of space in his novel La Carte et le territoire (2010), the article goes on to align the questions it raises with the six-year photographic tour of France undertaken by Raymond Depardon during the first decade of the twenty-first century. It considers Depardon's portrait of contemporary France in the context of his previous engagement with spatial change and state-led planning as part of the Mission photographique de la DATAR of the 1980s. It explores the vision of spatial layering and heterogeneity which emerges from the project, and discusses how it reasserts the importance of photography for capturing and articulating territorial identity and spatial change.
- Raymond Depardon
- Michel Houellebecq
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- School of Language, Literature, Music & Visual Culture, French - Carnegie Chair of French