France's Maginot Line might not have kept out the Germans, but for our July issue, photographer, Alexandre Guirkinger, and artist-cum-creative director, Mathias Kiss, proved that, with a few home comforts, its bunkers are just the place for lying low. Guirkinger has been photographing these abandoned fortifications for his personal 'Save the Ligne Maginot' project for several years, and now, 60 years after the German invasion, he's showing the series to Wallpaper.com.
'I spent my childhood playing in the forest among the bunkers and a few years ago I discovered people were restoring them of their own accord,' says Guirkinger. 'Some people were transforming them into museums, some were staging re-enactments and some were using them as sites for paintball games or gun clubs. Some have even turned them into private houses. I was fascinated by the idea of the fantasy of the military and the concept of playing war.'
The bunkers and forts of the Maginot Line were created along the French borders in the build up to World War II, but despite massive investment, the defence system was already outdated because of the rise of plane warfare. The French army spent eight months living in the bunkers doing nothing at the beginning of the war - a period known as the 'drôle de guerre' or the 'phoney war' - and the Maginot Line was never put to the test. In fact, the Germans stormed through a similar line of defence in Belgium before advancing on France.
'I like the idea of celebrating something that was never used. There's something quite silly about it' says Guirkinger. 'It's also a place that can be used for reinterpretation and transformation without facing the cruel facts of war.' His Save the Ligne Maginot series is his first personal photography project and a work in progress, which he plans to eventually turn into a book.
Of the interiors shoot for Wallpaper*, Guirkinger says: 'It was interesting doing something commercial in the bunkers because it put me in the same position as the re-enactors. Like them, I was performing a game.' The photographer also created a short film of the shoot, with Elodie Tinel. 'It was a way of revealing the architecture of the bunkers but also showing us at play'.
Watch the film