Freezing your butt off in sunny Athens...

The vast majority of Athens residents live in blocks of flats (a.k.a. 'apartment blocks') regardless of economic or social status. The domestic migration to urban centers, and mainly Athens, that took place from the 1950's to about 1980 has resulted in a scarcity of land. Most single houses have been torn down and sold to developers, to make room for apartment blocks. So, when winter comes and you want to warm yourself, you need to work out a deal with the other tenants (or owners) of your apartment block as there's a central heating system, pumping hot water through pipes running all over the building.

Heating body / Radiator in Athens apartment

The law sure has provisions on the subject, but in the middle of a deep economic crisis, with incomes severly diminished (or entirely cut off) for almost everyone, and with a wave of taxes on heating oil and hikes (lesser ones) in the price of electricity, things get complicated. People will prefer to forego their heating (and bill) as it is no longer considered a bare necessity in these circumstances. I have heard of many apartment blocks where tenants have collectively agreed to not buy heating oil this winter. And I'm talking about "middle-class" neighborhoods. They will, instead, rely on using their electric heating appliances, when absolutely necessary. I have my doubts about how efficient this will turn out to be, heating-wise, but it gives you a clear sign of the challenges people face these days.

Temperature control for individually heated apartment
Newer buildings give each apartment the option to be heated individually (which is fine in theory but innefficient heating-wise if each apartment warms and cools at different hours of the day). Yet, even in that case, all residents have to pay a minimum percentage (e.g. 25%) of the collective heating bill (the cost of oil purchased by the block) as they benefit from the heat transfered by neighboring apartments and that can also be a cause of friction (different kind of heat here...) between dwellers. It's been a very mild autumn thus far -a virtual windfall for all of us- but the 3 months from mid-December to mid-March are always the coldest ones in the calendar.  By March we'll know if the title of this post has become reality or not...

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Athens Photo Festival 2012, pt.2

Find below some long overdue pictures, along with my impressions,  from Technopolis-Gazi, the main exhibition space for the Athens Photo Festival which I visited last week. For more details on the photo festival see part 1.

The main square at Technopolis-Gazi, Athens
The first exhibition to your right, as you enter, is the annual Young Greek Photographers (no need to explain...). Curiously, the two Greek photographers I was mostly impressed with this year, are taking photographs that are far away from my style and that I wouldn't bother to shoot even if I could. Highly set up and stylized ones; giving you the impression that the photograph itself is only the end result of a long, copious artistic process. The first one is Constantinos Taliotis with his detailed, precisely choreographed "stills" of imaginary cop- and crime-films.
The second one is Penelope Koliopoulou, with her double exposed self-portraits of imaginary couples in the grey tones of their daily life. I felt that somehow this was the type of project, and photographs, that can leave a lasting aesthetic mark on you, which they certainly did on me.

Further on, there was, it seemed to me, a whole "Italian invasion" of photographers but in retrospect I realized that it was the fact that all three (that's how many they were) Italian photographers' projects greatly impressed me with their socially and emotionally affecting themes such as the documenting of the blind, socially excluded Cameroonese dwarfs and unusual portraits of city animals. The photographers names were, respectively, Stefano De Luigi, Nicola Lo Calzo and Giacomo Brunelli.

Stefano de Luigi - Blanco. Vision of blindness, Technopolis-Gazi, Athens

Nicola Lo Calzo - Morgante, Technopolis-Gazi, Athens

Among the other exhibitions, I mostly remember the ones with the photographs of Stephen Dupont (Raskols-The Gangs of Papua-New Guinea), Jan Banning's Bureaucratics with images of the desks of civil servants from around the world, and Anders Petersen's City Diary
Exhibition of Stephen Dupont: Raskols-The Gangs of Papua-New Guinea, Technopolis-Gazi, Athens

Exhibition of Jan Banning: Bureaucratics, Technopolis-Gazi, Athens 

Exhibition of Anders Petersen: City Diary, Technopolis-Gazi, Athens

The Technopolis site itself and the light of dusk also provided some good opportunities for photo shooting on my behalf...

Technopolis-Gazi, Athens

Technopolis-Gazi, Athens

Technopolis-Gazi, Athens

╬čld, restored chimney at Technopolis-Gazi, Athens

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