Spanish photographer Juan Galán’s documentary journey into existentialism based on Nikos Kazantzakis’ literary work – and its subsequent film adaptation, Zorba the Greek.

ZORBA is a documentary journey into existentialism based on Nikos Kazantzakis’ literary work – and its subsequent film adaptation – Zorba the Greek, which explores the meaning of life with a contemporary portrait of Greece by analysing its history, politics, patriotism, knowledge, work, religion, social and moral issues, art, family, and relationships.

According to existentialism, we are free agents who go through life without social, moral, or divine limits. It is entirely up to each individual to assign meaning to his or her own life. In the novel Zorba the Greek, Kazantzakis symbolically brings together, through the characters, the two faces of a philosophical dualism to combine or contrast them: Reason and Passion. The first is the belief of understanding and feeling things only through the filter of the intellect that transposes reality, that measures and theorizes all kinds of experiences and sociological barriers. The second, is the surrender to circumstances without reflection, opening ourselves to the here and now with decision and with all our being.

Greek culture focused its attention on man as the starting point for its development and stimulated a more human vision of the world, which favored political practice as a generator of ideas. And due to the constant reflection on the reason for existence, philosophy was born. Thus, the Greek community was a society willing to discover man’s achievements based on his abilities and capacities and to explore all his facets as a thinking and sensitive being. And so was their art: the manifestation of the essence of man, which focused on reproducing nature as it is, seeking to achieve beauty through order, harmony, and proportion.

The Greeks are well aware of their history and idiosyncrasies. They have been through a lot of suffering and a culture like theirs has learned to cope and survive. They have large and strong nuclear families that support each other. And then there is religion. It doesn’t matter if the Greeks are spiritually observant or just follow the customs and traditions, because it is certainly a factor that brings the community together and helps them to move forward.

ZORBA explores the struggle between the rational and the aesthetic, the life of the mind and the life of the emotions, the pain and the beauty of existence. It is a mirror in which we see reflected our miseries and also our riches. This happens in any narrative that could have been created about the activity of people, in all civilizations and periods of humanity, which is repeated in everyday life with the same components. The culmination of this work is a hymn to vitality, to the enjoyment of the immediate, of everything that is not usually given importance, where the greatest pleasures are often found in the simplest things.


The photographer

Juan Galán

Juan Galán is interested in how life is composed of movement and change; understanding societies through one’s identity as an individual, and investigating and recording knowledge of the reality of one’s existence.

Other featured work

No results found.

Explore More

Quietly Getting On

Photographer Christian Doyle’s project beautifully captures the strength and resilience of 12 women born before WWII.

Read More

The Barracks

Colin Templeton’s project reveals the quiet beauty of a sprawling 1960’s brutalist housing estate in North Glasgow, known locally as The Barracks.

Read More

Light and Dark

Photographer Cary Jobe reacts to the current global political and social situation and posits the question – how do we heal our politics, our communities and ourselves?

Read More


Photographer Rick Senley’s obsession with photography. Every bus journey, every train ride, every commute. Even if he’s driving. He has to take pictures..

Read More