“A powerful and sensitive but haunting journey to the contemporary human condition. Almost at the heart of Europe.”
The last couple of years, indeed a decade, a migration crisis in Europe has been preoccupying politicians, journalists and local communities, moreover it has captured global imagination as well. The emotionally-charged issues circle around the possible and actual threats to the well-being of European citizens, the truth claims about the real reasons of those who migrate to Europe, and their grueling journeys across the multiple borders and seas. These issues, are used, tackled, exploited by many; among others, politicians and media makers, global business ventures and local smuggling networks, as well as journalists, photographers, filmmakers and even artists. At the center of this crisis is “a refugee”.
The legal categories of “stateless person”, “refugee”, “forced from home” become hard to comprehend from afar. Numbers themselves gets more inscrutable, sensationalist, irrelevant. But who is “a person who flees for refuge or safety, especially to a foreign country, as in time of political upheaval, war, etc.”? What is a “foreign country”, “political upheaval”, eventually “fleeing” and “safety”?
The book in your hands is an attempt, in a visual form, to touch upon these questions. We are eleven photographers, with eleven pairs of eyes and hands, trying to answer this question equally passionately. Yet our images inevitably vary as do our age, techniques, interests. Eleven angles gives us the advantage of avoiding the danger of pretense of knowing what “refugee” is from the very start. Despite these differences, our eleven gazes hold a common and overwhelming interest in “a person” whose “safety” is deprived during the “fleeing”. That is we try to understand the space and movement and to visually express and compare equality overwhelming similarities of human spirit during the crisis.
Our images are a record of various way stations on the trek of the refugees in their attempt to reach their different destinations. These way stations are located in Greece on the Aegean Islands, at Eidomeni, at Eleonas in Athens, at Piraeus, in the FYROM, in Serbia and in Hungary - the so-called ‘Balkan Route’. Some of the photographs were also shot in the starting points of the refugees' trek, countries and regions such as Iraq, Syria and Sub-Saharan Africa. Water, forest, grass, that is nature which surrounds human produced camps, track and walls that surrounds the refugee in European imagination.
The book is an attempt to break these walls.
“In 2015 there were 851,319 arrivals in Greece”; “departures from mainland Greece accounted to hundred of thousand; so the arrivals to F.Y.R.O.M., to Serbia, to Hungary and to Austria.” All those contributing to the creation of the so called ‘The Balkan Route’. Within the year 2016: 332,492 arrivals by sea to Europe (1,015,078 arrivals by the sea in 2015). 3,930 dead or missing. That's about 90 a week. It's nearly 13 every day. One person out of every 88 has been lost at sea trying to reach the shores of Greece, Italy or Spain. Arriving in Greece the proportion of men in 2015 was 45%, children 35 % and women 20%.
"The Aftermath of a Despair and a Cartography of Hope"
"The Sub-Saharan Sisyphus"
"En route to the Balkans/Idomeni"
"Fragments of Evidence"
". . . to walk into an open cage"
"Fragments of Life"
"My Name is"
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