Book: Colony

French photographer Christophe Gin's latest book explores life in the inner region of the French colony of Guiana

For his book Colony, photographer Christophe Gin documented life in French Guiana, the South American region that remains a possession of France. The project was completed over a five month period in 2015.

“Guiana is France’s most vast region, in which the Guiana Space Centre co-exists with an immense area of forest,” writes Gin in the book. “In principle, this part of the republic is subject to the same laws as those of the metropolis.”

But the forest region, unlike the more populated areas on Guiana’s coast, has become a place of lawlessness. This is due to a combination of factors: an uncontrollable equatorial jungle, an influx of gold prospectors from the south and west, furtive criminal activity under the trees, and the difficulties of an American-Indian population forced to adapt to a system of republicanism.

Having worked in the region since 2001, Gin sees it as more of a “mosaic of exceptional places, often governed by codes and laws that are right for them.”

It is this interior area in Guiana that Gin chose as the subject of his photoessay.

“A legacy of the colonial period, Guiana obtained the status of French département in 1946 but this action only concerned the coastal area,” writes Gin. “The interior of Guiana, the territory of ‘Inini’, saw itself accorded the status of ‘independent nation under the protectorate’, a type of colony within the ex-colony. At that time its inhabitants were not recorded in the registers of the civil state, and therefore did not have the same rights as the ‘French’ Guianese of the coast.

“It was not until 1969 that the interior was integrated into the département, during a new administrative carving up of the entire territory. Its inhabitants are progressively assimilated, as the administrative system reached the interior of the country.”

Christophe Gin was born in 1965 in Nevers, France. A self-taught photographer, he started his career in the early 1990s with his photo report Nathalie: Conduct of Poverty, 1994-2001. In 2001, he started exploring French Guiana, and later travelled to Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia and Suriname. The subject of numerous international exhibitions, Gin was chosen as the 6th laureate of the Carmignac Photojournalism Award in 2014.