Ernesto Valverde photo exhibition - Ileana Tounta gallery

Today is the day of possibly the most crucial elections in the last 80 years of Greek history but I choose to write about something else: an unusual photo exhibition taking place at the Ileana Tounta Contemporary Art Centre, located at the fringe of Neapoli and Ambelokipi neighborhoods in Athens. The rarity (and media-worthiness) of the exhibition lies mostly in the identity of the photographer. It is Spanish professional soccer coach, and former player, Ernesto Valverde who has made a name for himself not only in Spain but also in Greece, after two successful stints at Olympiacos F.C. This is his first ever photography exhibition, titled Medio-Tiempo (Half-Time).

The exhibition's catalogue states that he has been photographing ever since he was a teenager and has studied at the Institut d'Estudis Fotografics de Catalunya, in Barcelona. So, he has been carrying a camera with him all this time, in and out of the football fields.

And this is one of the things that impressed me the most from observing his photographs at the exhibition. The man literally seems to have a camera glued on him all the time (do I smell a Leica...?). Even during the half-time of a most crucial game he finds the time (or the moment, but most of all the clarity of mind) to take a picture! This can only be a sign of dedication to photography especially when you consider the high-pressure environment of professional sports.

On the other hand, some other photos seem more restrained and "shy" if you judge them the way you would judge a professional photographer, but still speak volumes about his passion with photography when you imagine being in his shoes.

His photographs benefit from the privileged access he enjoys to sports venues and the inside look to the life of athletes and he makes good use of this privilege.

He seems to have an eye for spotting out forms and making them stand out, whether it is in  wider, open areas or in the secluded space of hotels that professional sportsmen are forced to frequent.

I also enjoyed his portraits; some candid, some staged, like the gangster-style portrait of Algerian bad-boy striker Rafik Djebbour. He also leaves some hints about his personal life with candid photographs of his wife from the days on the road.
Photograph: Ernesto Valverde

...And if you insist on looking for a connection to the elections and Greece's current situation, here it is: Valverde has decided to leave Greece and the same is true for many soccer and basketball coaches who have been working here. It seems like the country's current financial conditions cannot support high-caliber (and high-budget) sports people any more. If that was our only problem!

Address: 48 Armatolon kai Klefton St., [Neapoli area], Athens (Ambelokipi Metro Station)
Tel: 210-64.39.466
Opening hours: Tue-Fri: 12:00-20:00, Sat: 12:00-16:00
The exhibition lasts till June 30.
More on Athens galleries here.

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