»Urban Secret Garden – why the night« (the essay), Lia Nalbantidou (2013)**
»Urban Secret Garden« is a photography project in progress. Shooting started in 2010, as an improvisation of an aimless walk. Urban Secret Garden-Why the Night (2013) is the first attempt to edit the photographs into a series. A photobook Dummy was the result of that effort and in April 2013, the Dummy got shortlisted for the 6th International Dummy Award in Kassel, Germany.
-Not so sure how it all started.
There was a necessity to get into photographing without any preconceived concept. The condition was new and not so uncomplicated. I had to find that time slot when I wasn’t needed anywhere else and when both the light and the mind-set were right.
-How about 4.30-7.00a.m. ?
By seeking the dawn-walk motifs throughout the city, I discovered freedom in the hours before conscious light. I was there when darkness turned into light with a sharp noise; there when morning birdsong collided with last night’s laughter; there when the mesmerizing buzz of automobiles drowned the sound of the flash light. Floral patterns joggling with ancient ruins, car lights beamed down central avenues, construction sites laid silently with distant buildings at sleep - a kite, a plastic bag, a pole, white chairs, shiny balloons, amputee trees - all entwined into a body of photographs to create a secret urban garden.
The photographic reconstruction of my home city into a garden was not at first clear. In the early stages of shooting, I found myself chasing after the floral fabric motifs of my childhood. I grew up in the women’s prêt a porter family business, established in the 70’s. Perhaps the imprinted floral patterns of the readymade dresses have imposed their alluring shapes onto my memory cells. Walking about in the dark sites of the city I was looking for floral organic shapes under the trees or against the well-groomed fences.
Before I knew it, my dawn walks turning into nocturnal walks became a weekly ritual. With time, I left the patterns behind me to focus on the cityscape. There, I discovered the city rather than my projection on it.
Thessaloniki is a middle-class, medium-sized city, with many layers of history. The city’s urban scape is a “mix-and-match” of eras and styles. Proudly restored ancient ruins, Byzantine churches and the city’s walls, stand by fine examples of Art Deco and Art Nouveau styles, deteriorating 50’s and 60’s apartment buildings or expensively constructed contemporaries. In the last 20 years the city has lost its industries and hundreds of businesses, that once created fortunes and thousands of job opportunities. Currently, few industries are left alive. Since 2008, the city has experienced a major economical and social crisis.
During my night walks, I tend to draw a personal city map. My landmarks are quite different from those of the official city history. I come across abandoned buildings and large-scale warehouses, small-scale hovels and construction sites, vacant parking lots, closed down enterprises - all human wounds. Athens has about 20.000 homeless people. No numbers on Thessaloniki’s homeless are readily available. In winter 2014, many people make their homes in abandoned buildings.
My photographs attempt to weave a assemblage of symbols, redefining the public space by occupying it “ tactlessly”. The stroll is uncertain, so am I. Current history is under construction.
»Urban Secret Garden«Photography Project Information
»Urban Secret Garden« is a project still in progress. It started in 2010, as an improvisation of an aimless walk. During my early morning walks, I reflected on the floral fabric motifs of my childhood in the women’s prêt a porter family business (established in the 70’s). Progressively, I focused on the cityscape.There I realized that a photographic reconstruction of my home city into a garden was in process.It is a fact that Thessaloniki, experiences a major social and economical crisis since 2008. Currently, few industries are left alive. My photographs attempt to weave an assemblage of images and symbols redefining the public space during this turbulent time. The stroll is uncertain and so am I. Current history is under construction.
The project consists of three chapters:
»Urban Secret Garden - why the night«
»Urban Secret Garden - Mediterranean air«
»Urban Secret Garden - the Ano Poli suite«
»Urban Secret Garden - why the night« was the first attempt to edit the photographs
into a body of work. A Photobook Dummy was the result of that effort and in April 2013
the Dummy got shortlisted for the 6th International Dummy Award in Kassel, Germany.
In 2013 the Dummy was exhibited in:
Milan »MIA | Milan Image Art Fair« (May2013)
Dublin »PhotoIreland Festival« (July 2013)
Paris »Le Bal« (September 2013)
Kassel »6th Fotobookfestival« (October 2013)
Tokyo »Tokyo Art Book Fair - Book Storage« (September 2013)
»HAGISO - Panora Market« (October 2013)
»Urban Secret Garden – why the night«, Photobook Dummy Editions Info:
Photographs & Text (english) by Lia Nalbantidou.
Editing and design by Lia Nalbantidou & Elias Skoulakos.
Self-published in Thessaloniki – Greece
- Edition A: 3 copies & 2 Presentation Proofs & 1 Hors Commerce Proof, 32.5 X 24.5 cm Softcover, April 2013
- Edition B: 30 copies, 20 X 14.5 cm, Softcover, July 2013
»Urban Secret Garden - why the night« » Photobook Dummy is represented in: the Kasseler Fotografie Festival gUG Collection, Kassel Germany & in the Library Project Collection, Dublin Ireland
Photographs from »Urban Secret Garden - why the night « were represented in LogosV,City Narratives,PHOTOBIENNALE,Thessaloniki Museum of Photography (2014)
Photographs from »Urban Secret Garden - Mediterranean air« were represented in Tempus Ritualis,CACT Thessaloniki & Galerie im Körnerpark,Berlin (2014-15)
Photographs from »Urban Secret Garden - the Ano Poli suite« were represented in A Stroll in the City exhibition in the Municipal Art Gallery, Thessaloniki (2014-15)
Most photographs are available for purchase. Signed by the artist, all photographs are archivally inkjet printed and matted. For print sales, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org