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Photographer Ilias Bourgiotis’s new book reveals another side of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens

By Vivienne Nilan - Kathimerini English Edition

Photographer Ilias Bourgiotis’s “Spectators” is an intriguing take on the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Turning his camera away from the predictable focus of attention - the athletes and their achievements - he focuses on the spectators.

Published by 2006 with a perceptive essay by New York Times international sports journalist George Vecsey, “Spectators” invites us to watch people watching.

Pictured in black-and-white, often framed by the striking shapes of the celebrity-designed Games venues, his spectators are a study, for the most part, in quiet absorption. We do see some jubilant flag wavers and ticket holders, but the majority of the shots record moments of stillness, observation and reflection.

That portrayal of interiority is wedded to a sharp sense of composition. Take the jacket photo: A deceptively simple shot of a row of empty plastic seats and a spectator taking pictures, it repays closer attention.

The empty seats, a set of right angles, describe the faintest of curves, cutting the picture in two at a slight angle, wedging the spectator between them and a screen that partially conceals or reflects the next tier of seats. The figure of the woman, seen from the knees up, forms an upright and another right angle. The crisp sharp contrast of the foreground with the shiny light plastic against a dark background recedes into a background of grays. But the real focus is on the woman observing, apparently unaware of being photographed herself.

Even the crowd scenes often focus on the delight and suspense of individual spectators as they watch the events. These are the many private moments in the big public one, images of individuals brought together by one of the world’s greatest sporting occasions.

Athens born and based, Bourgiotis has exhibited widely in Greece and abroad and his work has been published in several books including “Unseen Greece,” “Neorion - Shipyards of Syros” and “European South.” “Spectators” is his first collection to be published in the USA.

As the name suggests, started life as a website, to which business partners Peter Pappas and Stelios Vasilakis brought extensive experience in Greek media, culture and education. They have since branched out into conventional publishing.

In town last week to promote “Spectators,” Vasilakis told Kathimerini English Edition that the next big thing is a joint venture with the Greek publisher Estia, due in the spring.

The website continues to thrive: A current highlight is Tehran-based filmmaker, photographer and writer Iason Athanassiadis’s account of Lebanon in the aftermath of the recent war.

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