Friday 29 July 2016

Women We Have Not Lost Yet - Athens Photo Festival

Issa Touma:
I really liked this part of the exhibition,  I was moved by the stories of the women, and even though the reflection on the glossy paper of the photographs resulted in poor quality reproductions, I decided to go ahead with the post.
On the 26tth of April 2015, when radical Islamic opposition forces announced the 'Great Attack' on Aleppo, young women of various religious and ethnic backgrounds took refuge in Le Pont gallery: most of them were former participants of Art Camping, a collaborative art project initiated in 2012 by Le Pont in response to the outbreak of the Syrian conflict in 2011. 

Issa Touma, a photographer and director of the gallery, believes that art is essential for surviving the horrors of war and preserving the principles of an inclusive society - principles that are threatened by political and religious fanaticism. This project is the outcome of the spontaneous photo sessions he held at Le Pont during the week of the Great Attack. It is a cry for freedom from the women that Syrian society has not lost yet - to death, exile or oppression. 

I did not immediately realise that there are two sides to each exhibit: the faces in the front are incomplete - the rest of the photograph is at the back, with some information about, and a statement by, the woman pictured.


occupation: jewellery maker
nationality: Kurdish Syrian
religion: Yazidi

'I am not afraid to die, but I am afraid of a mental or physical handicap. I believe that God is the almighty saviour, and I intend to stay here in Aleppo'.



occupation: English literature student
nationality: Kurdish Syrian
religion: Muslim

'In March 2014, I went to Istanbul to look for work. It had become too hard to live in my neighbourhood in Aleppo. But I couldn't find a job and had to leave again. In a way, I wasn't sorry. Syrians - especially women - are exploited in Turkey. Now I'm back in Aleppo'.


age: 24
occupation: graphic designer
nationality: Arab Syrian
religion: Sunni Muslim

'When the war started, I convinced all of my relatives and friends to leave town so that I wouldn't have to worry about their safety. As for me, I didn't have the courage to leave. I love my life here. But day by day, with the ongoing destruction, Aleppo is changing. And more and more people have gone. It's no longer the city I know. I've now decided to leave as well'.

Hiba Allah
nationality: Arab Syrian
religion: Sunni Muslim

'My engagement party is in two months. I'm looking for a job and I don't know what to do. I live here, where there's war, loss, destruction, insecurity and a permanent feeling of deprivation. I'm trying to hang on to hope but maybe it doesn't exist. Someone advised me to hold my engagement party by candlelight since there's no electricity in our city. We're falling apart as a result of our own mistakes. We've done everything wrong and things will remain as bad as they are now'.


age: 21
occupation: student
nationality: Arab Syrian
religion: Sunni Muslim

'Since the war started I've said goodbye to so many people. I stopped meeting people so I wouldn't have to say goodbye any more. I've lost any sense of being alive. I'm staying in Aleppo to finish my studies, and every night I count the bombs exploding around my house until I fall asleep.'


age: 31
occupation: UN volunteer
nationality: Arab Syrian
religion: Sunni Muslim


'After 13 years of economic autonomy, I'm terrified every day that will be taken away from me if Alepo falls into the hands of extremists. I would be trapped in my apartment, unable to go out unless accompanied by a male family member. I have panic attacks when I think of losing my life, my job, just because I am a woman'.

That was in April 2015.

Today, aid groups have warned that hundreds of thousands of civilians face starvation in Aleppo as government forces tighten a siege on the city. Roads are virtually impassible since early July when troops loyal to the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad moved within firing range of the last supply corridor. 'Today there is no way at all to bring anything into Aleppo', Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told Reuters. Food will run out within weeks and regime bombing raids have targeted several of the few remaining working hospitals. A food warehouse with almost 10,000 parcels was destroyed and fuel needed to power medical facilities and water pumps is running dangerously low.

The plight of the people in Aleppo continues ... how and when will this end?


Thursday 28 July 2016


The fountain was just behind where I was sitting in Vassilis and Giorgos taverna where we went to eat last night - very handy when one is thirsty in hot weather.

Tuesday 26 July 2016

Maedchenland - Athens Photo Festival


Maedchenland, by Karolin Kluppel, as part of Athens Photo Festival, Benaki Museum, Pireos, Athens.

Kluppel travelled to India to take these delightful photographs of girls. In the state of Meghalaya, the indigenous people of the Khasi constitute the majority of the population. The Khasi are a matrilineal society and the line of succession passes through the youngest daughter. If she marries, her husband is taken into her family's house and the children take their mother's name. This guarantees girls and women in Meghalaya a unique economic and social independence unlike the rest of India. To disrespect a woman in the Khasi culture means to harm the society. A family with just sons is considered unlucky, because only daughters can assure the continuity of a clan.
Between 2013 and 2015 Kluppel spent ten months in the Khasivillage of Mawlynnong in North East India, a village of just 95 dwellings. She photographed girls 'attempting to achieve a balance between documentation and composition'.

Sunday 24 July 2016

Sites of Memory - Young Greek Photographers

'The past will have been worked through only when the causes of what happened then have been eliminated. Only because the causes continue to exist does the captivating spell of the past remain to this day unbroken'. Theodor W. Adorno.

Sites of Memory, Young Greek Photographers, at the Benaki Museum, Pireos, Athens.
The exhibition Sites of Memory presents a series of recent works by contemporary Greek photographers who address the subject of collective historical memory as well as its ambivalent coexistence with oblivion. Whether recording contemporary sites in which dramatic events of Greek history have taken place, or focusing on people and personal narratives, these works demonstrate that memory should not be conceived exclusively as binding us in some deep sense to past times, but as a mode of representation belonging to the present.

Simos Saltiel:

Karatasou Camp

Paris Petridis:

The photographs below were accompanied by testimonies of people who were incarcerated, or were witnesses to the events that happened at these locations. Some were heartbreaking, particularly the ones of torture.

Vardari Square, the old National Security building in Athens. Here, thousands of political prisoners were incarcerated, tortured and murdered between the onset of the Civil War and the end of the Colonels' dictatorship.

Arrianou and Olympou in Athens. Here, the poet Manolis Anagnostakis kept watch as his partisan comrades executed fascist collaborators during the Greek Civil War.


Hippocrome Square. Here, at the Hippodrome, the guard of the emperor Theodosius massacred thousands of Thessalonians in the spring of 390 AD


Troon and Adrastrou Str., where the brutal attack on the unionist Konstantina Kouvena took place (juxtaposed with her testimony to the public prosecutor, which I have not included. However I have written about Kouneva before, and you can read about it  here )

Tzavella and Mesologious Str., where 15-year old Alexandros Grigoropoulos was shot dead by a policeman in December 6, 2008, when he went to Exarheia in Athens to celebrate his birthday (juxtaposed with an eyewitness testimony, which I have not included).

60 Panagi Tsaldari Str. where the anti-fascist activist rapper Killah P (Pavlos Fyssas) was murdered by the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn in September 2013. You can read more about this here . The trial of Fyssas' killer is going on at present.


Friday 22 July 2016

Young Greek Photographers

Young Greek Photographers at the Benaki Museum, Pireos Street, Athens.

Katerina Tsakiri - Family Affair
'Family affair is an attempt to portray female stereotypes in Greek society. These images are the product of my childhood experiences. I returned to the house where I spent the first years of my life recalling memories in an effort to understand the formation of my identity through a symbolic mirror. My eyes are closed so as to inhabit the space where these memories exist and were (re)born'.

Chloe Kritharas-Devienne: 

'These pictures are part of a project that deals with the refugee crisis. Most of them are portraits that I took during their journey through Greece and during their stay in various camps, in which I worked as a volunteer. My goal was to focus on people's faces in peaceful moments and to approach them with respect and kindness. As time passed by, through trust and understanding, I got closer to them. It was important to hear their stories and to learn as much as I could about their journey. I also wanted to avoid capturing them in moments of misery and I preferred to emphasise their optimism, even when the circumstances would not allow them to be optimistic. And although the word refugee is frequently used to refer to a mass of people moving through Europe, as if they have no individual characteristics, every one of them is a unique person with their own dreams for the future'.


Giannis Papanikos:

'2015 will be remembered as the year of the peak of the refugee crisis. I was asked to manage the migration flow coming from the Middle East and Asia. People streamed to the small border village of Idomeni, trying to pass through a two metre gap in the territory of FYROM so as to continue to their final destination, Northern Europe. These images describe the situation that prevailed in Idomeni when the European Union decided to put a limit to the flow of refugees'.

Maria Mavropoulou:

'The crisis consists precisely because the old is dying and the new cannot be born. In this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear'. Antonio Gransci.
'In this stagnant space, in this gap between eras, familiar Greek landscapes look bizarre, cut off from the real world... The horizon is hidden behind thick fog preventing us to see what's yet to come. Empty highways, solar panels, rotten watermelons and torn flags seem stuck in an intermediate state, portraying the current situation like distorted symbols of a bygone era'.


Io Chariava:

Fani Bitou, (part of the Penelope installation  (2013):