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A 35mm Love Letter to Freedom of Movement in the Mountains

Slovenian photographer Jaka Bulc shares B&W photography made across the Alps amid rising tides of nationalism

A 35mm Love Letter to Freedom of Movement in the Mountains

Author

Jaka Bulc

Camera

Contax T2

Film

Ilford HP5

Jaka Bulc is a photographer based between Ljubljana and Bled, Slovenia. He loves the outdoors, film photography, music, books, Arsenal F.C. and Volvos.

I’m not much of a patriot, but I like living in Slovenia. This little country in Central Europe that I call my home ticks all the boxes for an outdoor enthusiast: beautiful jagged mountains, clean rivers and lakes, vast woodlands, a lovely green capital and even a sliver of coastline on the Adriatic.

I like living in Europe too. I’m so used to taking advantage of our border-free system that I barely even notice when I cross into one of a neighboring country on a whim. And I do it regularly—being able to go to Italy for a cup of coffee or to Austria to ski their perfect groomers is something that I cherish greatly.

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This past winter was all about powder hunting. Wherever there was snow, I’d go there. Slovenia, Italy, Austria, didn’t matter. It was business as usual, skiing the mountains I love and can escape to whenever I please, regardless of country.

Then the virus arrived, and everything changed. It was scary. And quickly became even scarier when nationalist politicians came out of their holes to turn a health crisis into a crusade against cosmopolitan Europe, a campaign to turn a united continent into a jumble of isolated, antagonistic countries.

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Even though mountains often form natural borders between regions, countries and even continents, they are also the epitome of openness, borderlessness and camaraderie. In that, they are a symbol of everything that is good about Europe.

As a reliable climbing partner or knowledgeable ski buddy contributes to a better and safer day in the mountains, I believe a continent of friends and allies makes for a better place to live. Amid the growing nationalistic mentality, cross-border powder hunts, carefree bike rides, and weekend hikes take on a new meaning. They are not mere pastime activities anymore, they are important acts of resistance to the new us-against-them norm. 

While people here in Ljubljana are already taking to the streets on their bicycles to protest the way the government has handled the pandemic, I look forward to when it’s safe to protest chauvinism the way I know best—by going on hikes, climbs, and ski tours that pay no mind to the idea of borders and their arbritrary markers of here or there, us versus them.

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Published 05-11-2020

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