Photographer Johannes Schwartz spent the first week of September and the first week in October 2015 recording everyday life in Athens. In the resultant book he adopts no position, but in a well-chosen sequence in a range of black and white gradations over seventeen chapters he shows us a fascinating record in which the subjects vary. One expects to see a reflection of what Greece was going through in 2015. Presented in series of several images of the same subject, urban decline and poverty become almost abstract constructs. This is no heavy, crass presentation of the crisis. There is a clear suggestion of it, but you have to look closely.
There are also images of the glory times that ancient Greece once knew: from art treasures to what remains of the architecture for the recent Olympic games. In colour photographs it is the bluish cyan that survives the longest after prolonged exposure to bright light. The blue section of this book shows us the objects that have survived from a distant Athenian past, the glory that once was. The images of daily life are interspersed with chapters in which enlarging or zooming in on a subject sometimes renders it unrecognizable.
The newsprint-like paper and the choice of a format suggesting a newspaper’s yearbook – even the barcode – all fit in with the journalistic approach. A little more lithography would not have gone amiss, thought some. Others, however, were of precisely the contrary view, arguing that perfection would have made it a pamphlet of a different sort.