Kinematography: a photography project documenting squats and collectives in Greece.
This exhibition is an attempt to create a photographic charting of the free social spaces and collectives in Greece. These movements use direct democracy consensual decision making as their form. They are rising from the bottom up giving us an indication of the ways of which human beings could actually form new ways of relating to each other and envision a society in which racism is eradicated and hierarchy is non-existent.
Curiosity spurred the idea to explore values such as self-organisation, solidarity, autonomy, decommodification and the desire to become acquainted with people in relevant spaces. Photography was the perfect vehicle for such a journey.
Self-organization generally indicates autonomous groups or collective practices independent from institutions and corporations. They are non-hierarchical and participatory in nature and functioning as a radical alternative to neoliberal and capitalist institutions which, with their exploitative operation have dominated the contemporary socioeconomic landscape.
The title of the project, brings praxis and logos together, as from its origin, the word Kinematography (from the Greek κίνημα/κινέω-ῶ) fuses both meanings of the word “movement”, i.e. both kinesis and political movement. Within a four-year period, I visited more than seventy self-managed spaces in twenty-five different towns and villages across Greece. This is a small sample of the structures that exist today.
Besides any feeling of nostalgia, the above-mentioned images may infer, it is important to underline that the social movement is not at all static; it is rather an abundance of human interactions that evolve dynamically through a variety of stages. Just like celestial entities, social struggles, collectives and other human conditions do not last forever. When something comes to an end, something new emerges.
Some of the collectives depicted in this project are completely unknown while others are more renowned: housing squats, hangouts, social structures, refugee squats, political groups, rural ventures, sports clubs, collaborative collectives, self-organized schools, radio stations, newspapers, magazines, servers and many more.
Kinematography is a series of direct positive, ambrotypes mainly portraits based on the wet plate collodion process, which was invented in 1851 by Frederick Scott Archer. Within less than a decade the innovative process dominated photography. Against the commercial habit of his time, Archer did not patent his invention and thus paved the way for the democratisation of photography.
The word ‘Ambrotype’ comes from the ancient Greek ἄμβροτος, i.e. immortal. The moment the picture is taken not only does it portray a human being, but also their beliefs. People change over time, ideas remain unchanged. Ambrotype was chosen as a means to emphasize the non-mortality of ideas. People are unique, their experiences, perceptions, views and behaviours are also unique. Therefore, what we gain from the individual is something we cannot get through industrialised reproduction. Ambrotype is unique, not reproducible.
Wet plate collodion is a slow process that involves a lot of equipment, chemical preparation and a time-consuming setup. The process allows the photographer and the sitter to slow down, scope time from a different perspective and work more thoughtfully: during the process, the sitter is given the opportunity to get acquainted with the procedure and the time to discuss and prepare the next frame. The use of the process was not meant to portray reactionary nostalgia. The nostalgic tendencies of this process are critical and progressive, they aspire to be thought provoking and help us understand the present reality from a different perspective.
The subject matter is open, without restrictions. After a conversation, it is jointly decided how and where the frame will be set. There is no a priori aesthetic agenda that needs to be followed: it is shaped by everyone involved in the process and allowing the sitter to have the control of how they would like to be represented. This way, the relationship between the photographer and the photographed is crushed, subverting what is, in a sense, a power relationship. The participants become photographers of themselves.
The large format camera gives the photographer the opportunity to understand the process of photography in depth and discover its principles. On the contrary, digital cameras operate in a way that the manufacturing companies do not wish to reveal, thus creating "black box" devices whose use is virtually impossible to unravel; thus, the photographer becomes a user. It is important to eliminate the alienation of the end product getting familiar with the process and focus our attention on ideas rather than new technology.
One of the reasons this photographic process was chosen, is that it reflects the principles which are reappearing in contemporary projects emerging from the countercultural movement; from the glass plates, the gum sandarac used for the varnish, the egg white (albumen) used as a natural glue in the old days, to the natural tar used in converting the plate to positive and the low cost, easily accessible primary chemicals. That way, the photography industry is bypassed and the art of photography is de-commercialised. Most of this project's tools are hand-made: the darkroom, the carrying cases, the silver tank, the camera’s adaptation in order for it to receive glass plates etc. Furthermore, the exhibition frames on which the photographs hang and the exhibition lights were built with the DIY ethic and self-sufficiency in mind. This way a gallery is not essential. Any space can be transformed to an exhibition space. This project is an attempt not only to experiment with alternative ways of storytelling but also to question the way we consume images today.