In photography, crisis is considered as a code system consisting of numerous diverse components. The exhibition “Depression Era” attempts to map the methods in contemporary photography by which the components of crisis are revealed, represented and endowed with sense and meaning. It is also organized with the perspective of serving as the photographic archive of the crisis period in Greece in the long run.
The artists contributing to the exhibition belong to that new generation of contemporary Greek photographers who face the crisis with sensitivity and dynamism. They represent a wide range of variety in respect of photographic media, visual languages and aesthetic approaches. Their aim is to get beyond the scenes of economic and mental crises by the means of interpretive strategies and concepts that might allow the reception of this period to be expanded and transformed into the field of contemplation, awareness and resistance.
“Depression Era” project is a collective endeavour by Greek photographers, video artists, curators, architects, scholars and designers who have been publishing pictures of the Greek economic crisis on the website
since 2011. They are a group initiated exclusively by the members, who have organized themselves without any political pressure or any goals defined by outside forces.
The unique quality of the project is provided by its proposed methods of collective expression, co-existence, shared coordination and widespread dialogue of cultures, besides its ambition to offer a reception of and a critical approach to crisis through the lens of the camera.
The photographers of the “Depression Era” suggest that we should not want “to understand but rather to collect the world”
. The “collection” of the crisis is inexhaustible, unlimited and infinite. That makes it possible to connect it with an attempt of creating a database. On the other hand, the artists remain true to the heritage of European photography - for example August Sander - by both objectively and subjectively observing and unfolding the transitory phases experienced by all of us.
With the intention of classification, the exhibition is organized around five themes.
The narrative approach - in the sense of “once upon a time” - is applied by the artists in one or more photos as a method of visual art in order to exploit the narrative opportunities offered by the camera. These compositions contain such illustrative or dramatic elements which might even refer to paintings. At the same time, they might evoke a sense of staging or even of theatricality since certain elements in the cutting or in the recording angle look planned and directed. (Ch. Voulgari, G. Domenikos, P. Kiamos, P. Fysakis)
Another group of artists concentrate on intimacy: they observe their own relationship to their families and personal spaces in the context of the crisis. It is worth mentioning here that although these photos might have an amateur atmosphere, with the objective focusing on snapshots and representations yet they are accomplished in ways which an amateur would never choose. These pictures radiate with an intense sensitivity to problems and a hidden nostalgia full of emotions. (Ch. Kapatos, V. Tatsis).
Employing the inherent capacity of the camera as an instrument that can record things along the axis of time, the photographers in this section refer to the true reality of “today” becoming yesterday. Zola’s dictum is in the focus here: “nothing can claim to have existed unless it has been photographed”. These pictures are often engulfed in melancholy expressed by dominantly black and grey colours. There is no place left for daydreaming. Photographs “emit a breeze of reality like the water in a sinking ship.”
(E. Canaj, D. Michalakis, G. Moutafis, S. Staveris)
“Neutrality” understood as keeping distance defines another, well discernible group with the city of Athens and its urban landscape built during the crisis in the background. In these cases the artists concentrate on the final aesthetic results and on form without any dramatizing. Objective descriptions dominate over the view of the photographers so the emphasis is on the details and on the lines growing monumental. The power of these images relies in the compositions and in the rules of composition. The city in these photos makes the impression of a place fallen asleep, a ghost town, an impersonal non-space where encounters seem impossible. Buildings emerge from their environment while remaining organic parts of it as well. (G. Salameh, M.Tsagkarakis, Y. Hadjiaslanis)
Due to its poetic dimensions, image as a work of art allows one to surpass reality in both time and space. In this section, artists take a fresh look at ordinary life endowing something that usually remains unnoticed or is generally considered trivial (objects, animals, snapshots and places) with meaning by turning these things into pieces of art. They go to the extreme as much as optical authenticity allows them to do and, as mediators, they create imaginary spaces out of pictures, texts and symbols abounding in indirect or allegorical allusions. The personal turns impersonal, time becomes timeless and place is transformed into a non-place.
artists participated in the project:
George Drivas, Pavlos Fysakis, Marina Gioti, Giorgos Gripeos, Yiannis Hadjiaslanis, Zoe Hatziyannaki, Harry Kakoulidis, Christos Kapatos, Kostas Kapsianis, Panos Kiamos, Panos Kokkinias, Petros Koublis, Tassos Langis, Maria Mavropoulou, Dimitris Michalakis, Giorgos Moutafis, Yorgos Prinos, Dimitris Rapakousis, Georges Salameh, Spyros Staveris, Olga Stefatou, Angela Svoronou, Vaggelis Tatsis, Yiannis Theodoropoulos, Marinos Tsagkarakis, Dimitris Tsoumplekas I, Dimitris Tsoumplekas II, Loukas Vasilikos, Pasqua Vorgia, Chrissoula Voulgari, Eirini Vourloumis
 Susan Sontag, Sur la Photographie, Editions du Seuil, 1979, Paris, σελ. 105
Walter Benjamin, Petite Histoire de la Photographie, in Etudes Photographiqes 1, 1996, S.F.P. σελ.20
artists: P. Vorgia, Y. Prinos, A. Svoronou, O. Stefatou, D. Tsoumplekas, P. Koublis, M. Mavropoulou
curator: Angeliki Grammatikopoulou