Nick Hannes

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by Katerina Gregos

 

The Mediterranean has a long and eventful cultural, political and social history. It is at the intersection of many civilisations and is home to a wealth of cultures, languages, traditions, and religions. It has always been a region of hope, but also conflict; until today many of its countries have been tormented by social problems and appalling atrocities. Southern Europe is suffering from the impact of a long-drawn-out and often dramatic economic crisis. North African countries are entangled in the problematic aftermath of the Arab Spring. Desperate migrants, in their thousands, attempt to cross the Mediterranean, aspiring for a better life, often paying with their lives. As the world’s most popular holiday destination, mass tourism is colonising the Mediterranean’s sun-drenched beaches, one of the main reasons for its environmental decay. Over the past five years photographer Nick Hannes has visited twenty countries around the Mediterranean, resulting in the photographic series Mediterranean. The Continuity of Man (2010-2014). With his confrontational but also insightful and humorous documentary style, he captures contemporary Mediterranean themes such as migration, urbanisation, informal economies, political, social and religious division, and mass tourism. His photographs highlight the complexity of the region and its abundance of sharp contrasts. His pictures are multilayered and equivocal. Mundane Monaco and war-tormented Gaza are situated at the edges of the same sea, yet their realities could not be further apart. We see images as diverse (and sometimes as surreal as) as an African peddler selling souvenirs to an elegant elderly lady, sitting stark-naked on her beach chair, a surreal wedding party taking place at a gas station, a Kentucky Fried Chicken courier trapped within a demonstration, a UN watchtower placed in the middle of a children’s playground, and livestock grazing on the roofs of apartment buildings. With humour and compassion, but also a critical eye, Hannes captures misery next to bliss, and apart from poverty and despair he indicates some glimpses of hope, often borne of human relations with that specifically southern touch.

 

(from the catalogue of the 5th Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art, 2015)

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