The DATAR Photographic Mission is part of a political reflexion about the French territory, which focused in the early 1980s upon the concept of landscape. The late 1970s saw the emergence of a movement of interdisciplinary reflection on this concept, when the euphoria of the industrial and social development of the post-war boom gave way to environmental concerns and a search for territorial identity.
The landscape became the focal point and the translation of these issues. It helps us see and makes us aware of changes and conversions in progress. It is different from a map which provides a mapping of the territory’s components without affect. A map does not offer a suitable representation of these territorial transformations. Landscape, however, seems to offer much richer possibilities, taking a specific point of view, anchored in space and in time. Epitomising man’s relationship to his environment, landscape is considered both a use of space and a cultural construct.
We can consider that theoretical research in France began in earnest after the Mort du paysage? (Death of landscape?) conference  organized in 1981. It marked the opening of this area of research to disciplines as diverse as philosophy, anthropology and ecology. These approaches help to enrich the definition of the concept of landscape, following separate but complementary directions. Landscape can thus be understood as an aesthetic representation, a cultural representation, as an environment produced by a society in a given time and place, or as a biophysical and social system. The DATAR Mission project, launched two years later, follows on directly from these reflections, giving photographers the task of making sense of a sensory experience while renewing the perception of the land by explicitly asking them to “recreate a landscape culture” in France.
 Jointly organized by the Planning and Landscapes Division of the Ministry of Environment and the Faculty of Philosophy of the University Jean Moulin, Lyon; François Dagognet (dir.), Mort du paysage?, Philosophie et esthétique du paysage, Actes du colloque de Lyon, 1981, Seyssel, Champ Vallon, 1982, 238 p.
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