In (Zus), a visual essay by the French photographer Benoît Fougeirol, views of and views from eleven of the “Zones urbaines sensibles” (Sensitive Urban Zones) on the peripheries of Paris reveal harsh paradoxes of modern society. These poor, marginal districts were defined by administrative boundaries in response to the “emergence of a social problem.” Through the synecdoche of architecture—its materials, patterns, and surfaces—Fougeirol presents the stubborn vitality and dereliction of the Zus—and the failures of collective imagination that they represent. (Zus) documents each territory with an inventory comprising photographs, graphic representations, and toponyms, none of which alone can account for a totality. The book’s cumulative structure raises questions about the tools of representation and the nature of individual perspective. A text by the author, poet, and playwright Jean-Christophe Bailly reflects on the broader significance and lived experience of the Zus, following a lyrical thread through inhospitable spaces.
Benoît Fougeirol is a photographer based in and around Paris. His approach to image making and documentation probes the gap between perceived or lived reality and its representations.
Jean-Christophe Bailly is author of some thirty works that span the genres of the short story, poetry, essays, and drama. He teaches at the École Nationale Supérieure de Photographie, Arles.