A VISUAL JOURNEY From pits to bits

For the past 30 years, photographer Leon Dimitrios has traveled more than 500,000 miles, visiting 28 countries on five continents to document trading centers and exchanges.

Over the course of that journey, the way exchanges and traders did business changed dramatically. Leon sensed the oncoming paradigm shift at a very early stage and started documenting all those vibrant market scenes, trading floors and architecture, portraying traders and the ongoing irreversible transition towards electronic trading.

The energy of the crowd on a trading floor, an amalgam of people, places, technology and culture, were all things that sparked Leon’s artistic interest and eventually gave birth to the idea for this book back in the mid-1980s. Initially, no one could anticipate that it would take this long to publish it. The production of the coffee table book started in 1993, and it was finished by 1998, but as the world of finance began to change rapidly around the beginning of the new millennium, the whole project had to be restarted in order to include those changes.

Along the way, sometime early 1997, Leon started filming the exchanges and taking camcorders, microphones, and audio recorders—along with his usual photo equipment—to the marketplaces shown in this book. The videos of trading frenzy and the insights gathered from interviews that he took over the last 16 years became the core of the upcoming documentary, also called Exchanges.

Exchanges – A Visual Journey From Pits To Bits takes you on a photographic journey around the world’s most famous and most spectacular financial markets. Following the path of the sun, the around-the-world trip starts in Tokyo’s financial district of Nihonbashi and ends in San Francisco, at the Pacific Exchange. Along the way, Leon meets with diamond traders in Israel, spice traders in Mumbai and metal traders in the City of London; gets inspired by Frankfurt traders, captures transitions at the Wall Street exchanges, visits the world’s biggest trading floors in Chicago and gets absorbed in the sea of traders at the São Paulo exchanges.

The book also serves as a guide on a journey through time, portraying the inevitable transition to electronically-based trading. It will not only help us understand that change, but, most of all, how fabulously wealthy and colorful the world of financial markets was, what it is now, and what the future might bring.

Coupled with insightful texts by Michael Gorham and Ben Van Vliet, Exchanges features both visual and educational dimensions. Loaded with hard service information and insider stories for each location, Exchanges has it all: a most enriching first-hand, authentic experience.





Photographs by Leon Dimitrios
Essays by Michael Gorham and Ben Van Vliet
Introduction by William J. Brodsky

442 pages
31 × 29 cm


PROFESSOR JÖRG FRANKE review of Exchanges Book

It was nothing short of a revolution in the world of exchanges. However, the revolution itself happened in stages: the first one between the middle of the 1980s and the end of the twentieth century, where a transition was made from noisy, manpower-intensive floor trading to quiet, anonymous electronic trading. It was but a bloodless revolution, and the world of old capitulated reluctantly.

But it was not only technology that brought about change for the stock exchanges at that time. For centuries they had been self-sufficient, non-profit organizations that hardly competed with one another. Only when the demutualisation process began, the transition to a corporate form based on the economic success of the exchange itself, did they begin to look beyond their own boundaries. Stock exchange management and organization had to be entirely re-positioned, cost management was suddenly in demand and a completely new marketing awareness took hold.

A third factor which played a role at this time was the fall of the Iron Curtain and the opportunity for countries previously ‛on the other side’ to develop a new economic system. Planned economy was thrown overboard and a capitalist economic constitution took its place. Consequently, in cities from Prague to Shanghai stock exchanges came to life – in most cases one could say ‛again’ because many of them had existed hundreds of years before they were laid dormant by socialism. Initially, these stock exchanges experienced difficulties but in the meantime they have caught up and are still making up leeway.

In the middle of all this upheaval, Leon Dimitrios, the author of the photographs shown in this book, begins taking a serious interest in the world’s exchanges. In 1984 he sees a stock exchange from the inside for the first time, in 1993 he begins work on his book and twenty years later he takes the final photograph. During this time he visits most of the stock exchanges in forty-four countries more than once. The result of this tremendous journey is a fascinating piece of work. This book, however, is much more than the sum of its parts: here, the cosmos of exchanges worldwide emerge as a photographic network. Despite a multitude of differences, one thing becomes apparent: exchange trading is hope, fear, enjoyment, and suffering – strong emotion, no doubt about it. The author has done a splendid job of capturing all these emotions in unique snap-shots, some sharing the excitement and others the despair; one is mesmerized by the scene.

In any case, that is a thing of the past now. The exciting, lively pictures of hectic exchange trading floors have given way to the static ones of the ‘new age’; anonymous computers dominate the scene, they show no sign of life, as if nothing is happening at all. Although trading today is much ‘wilder’ because it is infinitely faster, it is just not visible to the naked eye. Exchange trading is now ‘engineered.’ The author has also managed to capture this ‘invisible’ exchange trading, occasionally but intensely describing its – not always straightforward – development. The book thus appropriately confirms the words of Bill Brodsky, Chairman and CEO of CBOE Holdings Inc., with whom I managed to maintain a friendly contact over the years even though he worked in a different, more traditional ‘camp’: “… it was a clear recognition that under the weight of the electronic revolution, the beauty and dimension and the unique personality of trading floors was going to disappear.”

In short, the book is not just a feast for the eyes in terms of appearance and graphic representation; it touches the heart, especially of those who have had the fortune to witness the old stock exchanges. The ‘old hand’ from the Frankfurt exchange, Walter Ludwig, says, understandably, “I really miss these personalities we had in the Börse. It used to be exciting on the floor because of the people one would meet and the exchange of ideas that happened there daily.” The world’s exchanges, however, cannot afford such nostalgia. An exception could have been made of the beautiful trading floor in Madrid, which almost became a museum over the years, only to be closed a few years ago. The memory, however, remains – this excellent book makes sure of that.