Saint Tropez, France, August 30, 2013
A Senegalese migrant sells a bracelet to a naked lady on a naturist strech of Pampelonne Beach in Saint Tropez.
As soon as one reaches the open waters it can become difficult to imagine the landscapes out of sight. In case of the Mediterranean Sea, there is much to imagine: the European shores, the ones of the Middle East and the Maghreb’s. With „The Continuity of Man“ Belgian artist Nick Hannes now presents a photo series depicting the multiple ways of life along these shores.
She is sitting on her beach lounger, sunglasses, a hat, dyed blond hair. She is not young anymore as the wrinkled, hanging skin on her back indicates. She is nudely enjoying herself and the sea at Pampelonne Beach in Saint Tropez. Next to her there is a man on his knees in the sand. Completely dressed, carrying a backpack with his goods. He is from Senegal, offering necklesses and bracelets for small money. He hopes to earn something out of the naked women he has to look up at hierarchically.
It is irritating photos like this one that Nick Hannes has been shooting around the Mediterranean Sea during four years. He travelled the riparian states and captured multiple moments on almost all egdes of this water. When he started in 2010, the Arab spring had not started yet, Lampedusa was not as famous yet. The duration and massive dimensions of the Greek crisis were not foreseeable yet. The unpleasant tide of events cynically made his project even more thrilling.
His photos are depicting the outcomes of mass tourism in Spain, France, Turkey and Croatia, and show contrarily how illegal immigrants are taking their first bath in the waves in Lampedusa. One can see how a Greek celebrates – for monetary reasons – his wedding at the petrol station he ownes and how a young unconscious Egyptian who was hit by tear gas is being carried away in Cairo. In Algier a desperate old man is sitting on an anchor next to the sea, while the well-offs in Monaco are bored on their sailing yacht.
This all happens along the same waters, although it may be hard to believe in some cases. It took Hannes 18 months abroad to shoot the pictures which are now „The Continuity of Man: A portrait of the Mediterranean Region“. He travelled all the regions that ages ago belonged to the Roman’s empire – they were the first and only to control the entire coastline. They called it „Mare Nostrum“ – „Our Sea“ – and built a political unity around the waters, which were always being sailed, traded upon, fought for.
By now nothing reminds of the former entity anymore. In his works Nick Hannes specifically focusses on mass tourism, urbanisation, religion, migration and conflicts. „Monaco and Gaza are both situated on the shores of the same sea“, he states. „This project is about the paradox of this region, about the parallel existances that are emerging here – and about the multiple faces of the Med.“
With „The Continuity of Man“ Hannes catches authentic moments of a variegated region that should make especially European tourists think of their destinations. His photos show impressively a compilation of those places that one might lose sight of on the high seas.
„Mediterranean: The Continuity of Man“ can be purchased as book on Amazon and are currently displayed at the Thessaloniki Biennial until 15th of September 2015.