Following exchanges with French and American researchers at the Marseille-based Mediterranean Institute of Advanced Studies (IMéRA), I have undertaken a documentary video project. To be produced in association with Paulo Aguiar, Brazilian television director and Richard Bower, film-promotion consultant for the city of Marseille, Provence: Reading the Land will be based on ideas presented in my book Seeking Provence. The documentary will aim to encourage viewers to develop a strong relationship with the landscapes that surround them. Objectives taken from a project statement presented to IMéRA are outlined below.


What do the links that so intimately tie the people of Provence to their landscapes depend on? The theme of Seeking Provence is that the maintenance of such ties depends on our ability to apprehend the surrounding world not through intellect or emotion, but through our primary and indispensable tools of perception - our physical senses. This, of course, is true everywhere. But an appreciation for a life of the senses is a distinguishing trait of a Mediterranean life stretching back to classical Greece and beyond. In developing a sense of place, Mediterraneans, if they choose to exercise it, can claim an inbuilt cultural advantage over the rest of us.

These same themes will be pursued in our documentary. Using the added support of a rich visual background, these connections and capacities will be explored as dynamic processes. What we propose is to look at old skills in new ways in order to reconnect with landscape.

 We have selected a number of contrasting environments, each chosen for its capacity to illustrate a vital aspect of the relationship between humans and habitat in Provence. Some, like the Camargue, are still predominantly natural environments. Others, like industrial Fos-sur-Mer, are landscapes in which people have had a large role in remolding their surroundings.
By looking at landscapes, by trying to discern their shaping forces, their internal balances, the hidden physical and social influences that determine their future, the goal is to seek ways by which spectators themselves are encouraged to read their own landscapes. It is by such reading that a vital, ongoing dialogue can be understood. Not only does the way we think define the landscapes we end up living in; the landscapes we live in end up defining the way we think.