• Jshero4

    Jamie McGregor Smith: Borrow, Build, Abandon – Athenian Adventures in Concrete and Steel

Photography

Jamie McGregor Smith's superb series charts the faded glories of the 2004 Athens Olympics

Posted by Rob Alderson,

Greece has long been famous for its ruins, attracting history buffs from across the world eager to see what once was. But a new show from Jamie McGregor Smith raises the intriguing idea that the country’s well-documented economic problems could create a new generation of shrines to the contemporary crisis. Jamie travelled round the sites used for the 2004 Athens Olympics documenting their alarmingly rapid descent into dilapidation and his photographs perfectly capture a haunting sense of loss (although it is worth noting that some commentators in Greece have been quick to defend the Olympic legacy). Given the socio-political context of modern Greece, each picture is rich with narrative but it is testament to Jamie’s talent that he lets the camera tell the stories without chasing heavy-handed poignancy and symbolism. We caught up with him to find out a little more…

  • Athens-2011-006

    Jamie McGregor Smith: Borrow, Build, Abandon – Athenian Adventures in Concrete and Steel

  • Athens-2011-024

    Jamie McGregor Smith: Borrow, Build, Abandon – Athenian Adventures in Concrete and Steel

How challenging was it to gain access to the sites you wanted to photograph?

Many of the Olympic centres are vast, surrounded by acres on concrete car parks. There are many points of entry and open areas surrounding the stadiums. As a public venture, the sites are not guarded by private security companies so gaining access was easy. I actually walked straight into the empty Olympic Stadium, explored, shot and left without anyone asking me any questions. Turns out the Athenians are pretty laid back on the whole!

It’s wonderful for photographers and something you would unfortunately never find in Britain. I only hope the freedom they allowed me isn’t repaid by a potentially negative portrayal of their economic and political decision making. 

There was one interesting occasion when I was photographing the Helliniko Kayak Slalom Centre and realised a security Alsatian was patrolling alone below me. It kept my undivided attention for so long, I hadn’t noticed the security man  in an electric golf buggy coming up behind me. After a brief encounter I admitted my mistake, showed him how I’d managed to get in and I was sent on my way.

“I actually walked straight into the empty Olympic Stadium, explored, shot and left without anyone asking me any questions.”

Jamie McGregor Smith

How did the people you met in Greece look back on the 2004 Games and its legacy?

Most of the Greek people I met weren’t interested in the other sports apart from football and basketball and were indifferent about the state-of-the-art sports facilities that had sprung up. The positive legacy for them was gaining one of the best metro systems in Europe and a new motorway and airport which had managed to relieve the choking road network that has marred the city of Athens for decades. In this sense, it sounded like the games had had a positive legacy on the city.

However, people are under no illusion that the cost of this was a national debt crisis. This coupled with the problems with the European markets meant they were under immediate pressure to pay back the (mostly German) lenders. We have all witnessed the anger which has spilled out against their government since they agreed to bow to centralised European pressure and revoke sovereign control over their economy.

What do you hope this project tells Londoners about the games?

Thankfully we had a stable government and a very enthusiastic team planning our games and its legacy. I’m optimistic we won’t see the same white elephants on our landscape in the coming years.

I really hope the project makes Londoners realise how privileged they are. With access to health and leisure facilities never being better, I hope they these images illustrate how pride and lack of foresight can waste an epic amount of energy and opportunity. 

For many though, these parks will remain unaffordable. Once they are handed over to commercial control, I’m concerned they will not be accessible anymore.

We need to lobby our local councils and make sure the Olympic commercial extravaganza we’ve all witnessed, doesn’t continue with current residents being priced out of their homes and unable to take advantage of their new publicly-funded local facilities.

We have all paid for the Olympics to be here, the majority of us didn’t get tickets. Huge corporations have gained unsurpassed positive accreditation, let’s make sure they are not the only winners.

Borrow, Build, Abandon – Athenian Adventures in Concrete and Steel is at the Print House Gallery in Dalston from September 7 to October 3.

  • Athens-2011-002

    Jamie McGregor Smith: Borrow, Build, Abandon – Athenian Adventures in Concrete and Steel

  • Athens-2011-008

    Jamie McGregor Smith: Borrow, Build, Abandon – Athenian Adventures in Concrete and Steel

  • Athens-2011-016

    Jamie McGregor Smith: Borrow, Build, Abandon – Athenian Adventures in Concrete and Steel

  • Athens-2011-018

    Jamie McGregor Smith: Borrow, Build, Abandon – Athenian Adventures in Concrete and Steel

  • Athens-2011-021

    Jamie McGregor Smith: Borrow, Build, Abandon – Athenian Adventures in Concrete and Steel

  • Athens-2011-007

    Jamie McGregor Smith: Borrow, Build, Abandon – Athenian Adventures in Concrete and Steel

  • Athens-2011-023

    Jamie McGregor Smith: Borrow, Build, Abandon – Athenian Adventures in Concrete and Steel

Ra

Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Photography View Archive

  1. Simon-hogsberg-the-grocery-store-project-itsnicethat-list

    One supermarket, one man, thousands of faces and 2067 images make up Danish photographer Simon Hoegsberg’s The Grocery Store Project. Simon tells us that over a year and a half, he patiently stationed himself atop a bike rail in front of the same Copenhagen supermarket, snapping away as people walked in and out; all the while kissing, pondering, smoking, chatting on the phone or doing any number of things we do without really thinking about it. From the whopping total of 97,000 an edit of 2067 were selected and arranged in a grid. While it may just look like a sort of dingy Tetris or an unhelpful map, on closer inspection you notice that within each sequence, we see the same face – sometimes serene, sometimes flustered, sometimes downright miserable. It feels eerie in its demonstration that while time ticks and our lives fly by, we do the same things, we’re the same person, just popping to the shops.

  2. Karenelson-timwalker-itsnicethat-list

    As It’s Nice That’s resident fashion expert (ahem) I know a strong editorial shoot when I see one, and this one for Vogue’s May edition is as good as they get. In it you’ll see Karen Elson wearing all manner of clothing by various clothes-makers – all of which look stunning. But stuff the outfits, this is all about the locations and the luxurious referencing of south Asian iconography. Tim, Samantha Bryant and Duffy travelled all the way to Bhutan to shoot Karen in the Himalayas alongside a supporting cast of masked imps and Bhutanese locals, weaving a surreal narrative of pagan mysticism and evoking an atmosphere akin to the hippie trail.

  3. Severa-frahm--itsnicethat_lemonde_airport_list

    Apart from the frisking, of course, there’s very little that’s sexy or attractive about going through airport security. There’s certainly little that’s sartorial about padding around in your socks, or in men holding their trousers up as their belts sail through the X-ray machines. Somehow, though, Severa Frahm has managed to turn the situation into one that’s very much sexy, attractive and sartorial, taking it as the starting point for some great fashion editorial shots. The Amsterdam-based studio is comprised of photographer and art director Mirka Laura Severa, while Michael Frahm assists and is responsible for the post-production elements. The airport shots are so smart and serene, making even the big Alsatian dog seem effortlessly chic as he dips his snout into the scanner and over some very expensive luggage. Elsewhere in the Severa Frahm portfolio there’s some great still life work that pops with bright tones and brighter concepts, as well as the old pretty girl in car on sunny day chestnut.

  4. List

    This isn’t our usual type of post; there’s nothing fun, colourful or inherently “nice” about these images, but Jonny Seymour’s shots of an Easter tradition in the Philippines are truly astounding, so apologies if they make your stomach turn. Jonny travelled to Manilla to witness this brutal Good Friday tradition in which three men are nailed to crosses in a reenactment of the crucifixion. Other penances carried out on the day include self-flagellation, crawling on the rough ground and carrying giant crosses. Jonny has captured these events with care and sensitivity, and though the impact of these painful pictures is hard to deny there’s nothing gratuitous about his portrayal of this devout practice.

  5. Zoeghertner-itsnicethat-5

    I’d like to live in the world Zoe Ghertner creates with her camera. Sometimes I feel like I can almost hear her photos, rustling fabric over knees and the brush of neck hair against a collar, the sound that statues would make if they were quickly, secretly rearranging themselves into a more comfortable position without being seen. They’re fashion editorial photos, but with a sinister depth to them that is so often done in a ham-fisted way, but with Zoe is delivered as crisp as cut glass. The net draped over oranges like skin over joints, the spiked industrial hair curlers, and the uneasy pressure, suspense and delicacy of taught balloon animals. She’s fantastic.

  6. Maya-fuhr-itsnicethat-list

    Maya Fuhr is a photographer with an inexplicable ability to photograph young faces without losing any of the youthful disdain, muted excitement or quiet rebellion that play an integral part in being young. Which more or less makes her a natural fit for a fashion brand to shoot their campaign, don’t you reckon? John & Jenn has cottoned on, commissioning Maya to shoot their new collection of simple and structural pieces, and she did a lovely job of it; the resulting images are textural and tactile while maintaining the models’ quiet air of not-giving-a-shit. Somebody give the girl a billboard.

  7. Nathanaelturner-itsnicethat-main

    There’s something I can’t stop thinking about that Roger Dean said in an interview the other day. He was talking about people creating things, and was saying there’s no point in making something that looks like it is typically of this earth. He wants people to make things that look like they’re from another world, because why not? After reading what Roger Dean said, I came across LA photographer Nathanael Turner’s work, and realised that even though he’s shooting stuff that’s very much “of this earth” (people, computers, buildings) he’s fantastic at making them seem a little skewed from the norm.

  8. Paulsmith-instagram-itsnicethat-list

    “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” The line is Marcel Proust’s, quoted by Paul Smith at an Instagram event in London last week in which the fashion designer and bona fide national treasure spoke about his love of the photo-sharing platform, his longstanding passion for photography and his incredulity at how many people look, but don’t see. It’s not a problem for Paul, who finds inspiration in all manner of things and takes the opportunity to absorb what he encounters in his day-to-day life.

    Paul was bitten by the photography bug after his dad – himself a keen amateur photographer – gave him a Kodak Retinette when he was just 11. His dad had converted the attic into a dark room and Paul remembers with relish the hours spent developing pictures, superimposing one visual over another and “holding back” the image. “I thought it was magical,” he says. He has taken photographs for years and at his offices, his designers can delve into huge folders of thousands of his pictures collected down the decades. “They are pretty well organised,” Paul says. “If you came in and said ‘Has he been to Greece?’ they’d be able to say yeah in June 2013 or whatever…”

  9. Larrysultan-pfh-10-int_copy

    Larry Sultan’s photography is imbued with both the traditions of documentary and staging, and captures suburban life often in his hometown in the San Fernando Valley. Pictures From Home is a project that spanned a decade featuring his mother and father as primary subjects.

  10. Harley-weirlandscapes

    How can Harley Weir take photographs of landscapes and capture a natural or industrial scene as if it were a pubescent teenager? Each one of these photos is vulnerable, oily, undulating, smelly, confused and slightly sad: like a grumpy 15-year-old fumbling about for clues of its existence.

  11. Frida-by%c2%a0ishiuchi-_50_-2012-2015%c2%a0(sunglasses)-int-list

    It’s always a thrill to rifle through other people’s bits and bobs, even more so if that other person is Frida Kahlo. Thanks to a series of images by Japanese photographer Ishiuchi Miyako we can do just that, taking a startlingly intimate-feeling journey through the particulars of the artist. The photographs, which are going on show in May at London’s Michael Hoppen gallery, were captured in 2013 and what makes them feel so eerie is perhaps the photographer’s diligent, cataloging approach to her subject matter. It’s telling that Ishiuchi knew little about the work of Frida, perhaps giving a stance which could be more critical and more focussed on the objects themselves rather than the meanings it’s so easy to imbue them with.

  12. Camille-summers-valli-int-list

    “Their agenda is that they want an activist film that goes into the history of their struggle and presents a contemporary portrait of what’s happening in Black Mesa right now. But it’s not an activist film. I think ultimately it has undertones of activism because of the subject matter, but an activist film follows a certain structure and I’m definitely moving more towards something else.”

  13. Namsa-leuba-khoisan-int-list

    In the past we’ve spoken about Namsa Leuba’s work only in the context of her fashion shoots for WAD magazine and Comme des Garçons, but these commissions came about because of her personal exploration of Guinean culture in a series called Ya Kala Ben. She’s also explored the traditions of a tribe called the Khoisan, one of the most divergent peoples in the world. As with many of her projects these images seek to subvert traditional perceptions of African culture by experimenting with anachronistic costumes and environments, and as ever they’re incredibly striking.