Ground Sea

Photography and the Right to Be Reborn

Hilde Van Gelder

Regular price €0.00 Sale

Monograph - free ebook - PDF

VIEW Monograph - paperback


Viewing the Strait of Dover through the lens of photography theory

Imagine a world in which each individual has a fundamental right to be reborn. This idle dream haunts Hilde Van Gelder’s associative travelogue that takes Allan Sekula’s sequence Deep Six / Passer au bleu (1996/1998) as a touchstone for a dialogue with more recent artworks zooming in on the borderscape near the Channel Tunnel, such as those by Sylvain George and Bruno Serralongue.

Combining ethnography, visual materials, political philosophy, cultural geography, and critical analysis, Ground Sea proceeds through an innovative methodological approach. Inspired by the meandering writings of W.G. Sebald, Javier Marías, and Roland Barthes, Van Gelder develops a style both interdisciplinary and personal.

Resolutely opting for an aquatic perspective, Ground Sea offers a powerful meditation on the indifference of an increasingly divided European Union with regard to considerable numbers of persons on the move, who find themselves stranded close to Calais. The contested Strait of Dover becomes a microcosm where our present global challenges of migration, climate change, human rights, and neoliberal surveillance technology converge.

Read more on the book's dedicated website:

This publication is GPRC-labeled (Guaranteed Peer-Reviewed Content). Ebook available in Open Access.

"The book is about those who are stranded close to the sea but at the same time about all of us, who will have to accept that learning to sail or float on water will increasingly be our fate if we do not succeed to work together to contain the rise in sea levels.", Hilde Van Gelder

Frontcovers Ground Sea

Contents of Volume I
Preface: Water-Bound 
Embarkation: Bone Point 
Introduction: Sea-Stricken 

PART I: Blade 
1. Running on Water 
2. Ground Sea 
3. Ossuary 
4. Kairology 
5. Reliquiae 

Deep Six / Passer au bleu (1996/1998) by Allan Sekula 

Contents of Volume II

PART II: Shuttle 
6. The Right to Reappear 
7. Naming the Person without a Name 
8. Fools & Rights: Leaves for an Illustrated Reader 
9. This Precious Jewel 
10. Plotting 

At Anchor: Pearl Diving 


Format: Monograph - free ebook - PDF

1000 pages

120 illustrations

ISBN: 9789461665768

Publication: April 19, 2024

Series: Lieven Gevaert Series 30

Languages: English


Hilde Van Gelder is professor of contemporary art history at KU Leuven. She is director of the Lieven Gevaert Research Centre for Photography, Art and Visual Culture.

'Ground Sea' makes a significant contribution to these debates as it raises the issue of human rights and the role of photography in the ongoing violation of fundamental freedoms.
Olga Smith, Focales, 7 | 2023 URL :