It’s a crisis, yes—but parallel to what?
A crisis (from the Greek word, κρίσις) is a decisive point. It is any event that is expected to lead to instability, to change, often towards danger. This could be in the case of an individual or a group or even a whole society.
Mostly, crises are thought to tend in negative directions, especially as they often occur abruptly, with little warning. A security crisis results in fear. A political crisis usually leads to drastic changes in governance. An environmental crisis threatens humanity’s future, while in contemporary Greece, the population faces a grave economic crisis. A crisis is a time of testing, a trial by fire. The moment before full-on emergency.
It is said that photography happens to be the most naïve of all media because of its intention: namely, its desire to immobilize time. That is why photographs are usually beautiful but sad. The only time that the camera can reproduce is dead time, time that is already spent. For the past five years, Athens has changed dramatically: the once vibrant city has been transformed into a negative space, a plateau, wholly immobilized in time.
The very flow of life has changed for its citizens. Today, their time is not their own. It is a stolen and already used time (reminding us of the already spent time of photography). Whatever happens in the city, it remains there as a layer, resting upon other layers. These remnants are like wounds—wounds on a spot where the healing cannot be afforded. Athens is, by definition, a city-crisis.
One of photography’s great disadvantages is also a privilege: the immobilization of photographic time makes it the perfect canvas to convey frozen moments, the no-way transits, the junkyards behind our houses, all the people waiting silently to sell their past lives away. Photography reaches its poetic destination when it can narrate the tale of an entrapped population. The story of those men whose time has been spent. An immobilized people.
“The Parallel Crisis” series is not a photo-documentary about the cities of today. Instead it constitutes a document of the future, a glimpse into the European cities of tomorrow. These cities are hidden from our perception but they are alive within the sprawl of (moving) time.
These photos represent the conditions of the mind. They show carcasses lying under the ancient sky of Attica. Sometimes clouded or dark, occasionally shining. This is the uneasy machine of (human) nature.
Editors’ Note: The PhotoEspaña 2015 Descubrimientos Award recognizes the best photographic work presented in the portfolio reviews organized each year as part of the festival. As part of the prize, Karpou will be exhibited in a solo show as part of next year’s festival.