CULTURE

Greek artist’s camera depicts urban mood of English seaside town

For people living in Mediterranean countries, the way in which life in northern cities changes completely from day to night is a striking phenomenon. Away from the big metropolises, in the smaller cities daytime commotion is usually succeeded by a deserted, almost desolate urban environment at night, a stark setting with little traces of the human presence in it. This is somewhat what Hastings, a small, seaside town in East Sussex in the UK, must look like at night. At least, it does in «The Front,» the series of photographs that London-based Greek photographer Effie Paleologou took of Hastings in the course of a project commissioned by the Hastings and Eastbourne communities. A selection of the images she produced make up her solo exhibition, which continues for a few more days at the Apartment gallery in Athens. Cities are a favorite subject for Paleologou, who, prior to «The Front» series, won a reputation for «Mean City» which recorded life in the three large metropolises of New York, London and Paris. As in the Hastings photographs, recognizably depicting the city is hardly what interests Paleologou; what matters is capturing its essence, the kind of urban mood which is usually registered in small, nondescript details. Paleologou shows that this mood exists in the most commonplace of urban structures: In «The Front» series, the image of a lamp post lit up on a deserted highway or a working-class dwelling in the midst of darkness are somehow bathed in a psychologically suggestive, almost mysterious atmosphere, so typical of Paleologou’s work. Darkness is one of the most prevalent aspects of this series. In Paleologou’s photographs, Hastings at night is an all-encompassing, flat, black vista interrupted by the shapes, textures, lines and colors that are produced by artificial light. In the selection of photos presented at the Apartment gallery, the emphasis on lines – of a highway, a building, or those created by rays of light – creates a uniform visual style. Through lines alone and using the barest visual cues, Paleologou puts together a convincing psychological description of an urban landscape visited at nighttime. But she also creates images in which narrative is not a necessary component and which can be enjoyed for their pure, formal qualities of light, texture and sense of movement. Effective in both senses, Paleologou’s images tread the middle ground between distance and psychological engagement; this uncertainty in many ways is what living in contemporary cities feels like.