With its rich history, the Mediterranean is the most popular tourist destination in the world. But its shores are also prey to developers, the scene of many battles, and the entry point for desperate immigrants from Africa and Asia.
The exhibition Mediterranean: The Continuity of Man, currently on display at the Fotomuseum in Antwerp, is the result of a five-year journey Nick Hannes took along the Mediterranean, documenting its various contemporary issues of tourism, urbanization, migration, crises and conflicts.
Where did the idea of touring the Mediterranean come from?
I was fascinated by the region, by its history, its reputation as the cradle of civilization, its location at the crossroads of three continents. Plus, it’s a sea we all know from geography and history classes and vacations. It’s a place that I understand and feel, which allows me to comment visually on what happens there. Moreover, the region is disputed—north vs. south, east vs. west, Jewish vs. Arab vs. Christian, rich vs. poor, etc.—and that’s interesting for a photographer because it visually enriches his or her subject.
What are you trying to convey? Is there an activist side to it, an appeal to the viewer’s conscience?
I try to take “multilayered” photographs that raise questions rather than provide answers. I compare two parallel realities, I bring together different worlds in a subtle way that leaves room for interpretation. Certainly, there’s a critical aspect to my work. The viewer can decide whether or not “The Continuity of Man” is a good thing. We’re exceeding the social and ecological limits of our planet, and few people seem to care, least of all those in power.
What can you conclude from your work? If you have to find a positive message in it, what would it be?
On a higher level, there aren’t a lot of positive things happening. Those are happening on a more basic and personal level, between people. Human beings, wherever they live, and regardless of what they believe, have more in common than we think.
Read the full interview on the French version of L’Oeil.