The Photography of George Georgiou Show the Clash of Man Versus Modernism

Most of us consider modernity as something that comes upon us gradually and in doses that arrive and are adopted almost unnoticed and without thought. In many places in the world, though, modernization has been garish and intrusive, erupting in a clash between long standing cultural tradition and the homogenizing effect of globalization.

 

In the images he has captured, photographer George Georgiou has acted as something of a war correspondent, describing the battle between the past and the encroaching future in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and Turkey. Through his stark and sometimes disturbing lens we watch as people learn to negotiate the new space they now occupy.

A British-born freelance photographer, George Georgiou has always had a curiosity about Turkey, given its rivalry with Greece that has spanned the millennia and his Greek and Cypriot heritage. He started his journey, though, in Kosovo and Serbia. There, his black-and-white photography gave a graphic and emotional diary of life there.

He first visited Istanbul in 2003; at the same time there were horrific bombings of the British consulate and a synagogue. These events prompted George Georgiou to dig deeper to learn more about the conflict there and the people who were living through it. He spent five years in Istanbul, living and working and photographing life as it presented itself and the changes the country was undergoing.

As he drove across the country, Georgiou would come upon stark images of these changes and what he termed an “alienating landscape.” Many of his photographs featured huge, faceless, and multicolored apartment complexes that would loom over the people and landscape in a jarring incongruity. The people themselves would tentatively interact amid these government-built monuments as a tiny representation of the culture that lives within.

George Georgiou started his documentation in black-and-white, but later moved to color. He favored an articulated LCD camera that could be viewed through a lens finder at the top, so the photographer was looking down at the camera rather than straight at the subject. He said he found this to be less disruptive and off-putting.

The result of his immersion into Turkish life is the book, Fault Lines/Turkey/East/West, in which he displays the altering landscape and spaces of the region, which has long been considered the bridge between East and West. Many of the shots that are featured show an emptiness and desolation, even in the faces of his people. The book ends, however, on a seeming positive note, with photographs of younger Turks who represent the human capability of adaptation while maintaining identity.
Georgiou has moved his work to Georgia and Ukraine in a multi-year effort to document their efforts to separate from “Mother” Russia in a work titled, In the Shadow of the Bear. The project is his effort to show how the people of their region are again adapting to transitions that are physical, emotional, and societal.
George Georgiou earned his degree in photography from the Polytechnic of Central London. In addition to his freelance work, he has taught photography at London’s Barnet College and in various workshops in Europe. His work has received worldwide recognition with two World Press Photo prizes in 2003 and 2004, and The British Journal of Photography project prize in 2010, and first prize in 2004 in Pictures of the Year International. He has shown his work at MOMA and is a featured artist on www.jacksonfineart.com.

Sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Georgiou
http://www.georgegeorgiou.net/artist.php?ArtistID=19&GroupID=1
http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/20/george-georgiou-in-turkey/
Article written by Wendy Northcott