2010 - 2014
Over the past five years, Nick Hannes (BE, °1974) visited twenty countries located around the Mediterranean sea. Cradle of civilisation, birthplace of three major religions and the crossroads of Europe, Africa and Asia, the Mediterranean region has many faces and a turbulent history. For centuries, people have travelled, traded and waged war along its coast. The Romans spoke of Mare Nostrum, Our Sea, when their empire was at its greatest and encompassed the entire coastline.
With over two hundred million tourists annually, the region is the most popular holiday destination in the world. However, tourism and increasing urbanisation have left deep scars in the Mediterranean landscape. Across the water, on the African coast, people also congregate in their thousands, but for a different reason. Throughout 2014 and 2015, over one million migrants took to the sea in dilapidated boats to try to reach Italy or Greece. For them, the sea represents a moat that keeps them out of Fortress Europe. And for many, this moat has become their graveyard.
In late 2009, the euro crisis hit Greece hard. One year later, when a Tunisian man, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire as a protest gesture, the Arab Spring was unleashed. The spark caused by his death ignited a wave of change that moved like wildfire through Egypt, Libya and Syria, where the uprising derailed to become a bloody civil war. In the summer of 2014, bombs rained down once more on Gaza. The Mediterranean is now a battlefield again, a state of affairs with which its complex history has made it all too familiar.
During the turbulent period from 2010 to 2014, Nick Hannes unexpectedly found himself witnessing this remarkable turn of events. He observes with an open mind and allows room for chance, his work transcending the anecdotal to achieve images of such beauty that the viewer cannot remain unmoved. While he is a master of the visual metaphor and knows how to elegantly splice tragedy and humour, he also understands the boundaries. Hannes travels through the scenery of a world event where the small is sometimes interchangeable with the great, all the while fully aware of his own insignificance.