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Exploring Greece’s Unseen Corners


In 2016, drawn by the odor of Easter cookies, I ventured right into a small bakery within the village of Olympos, on the Greek island of Karpathos. The proprietor, a lady named Kalliope, was going about her work whereas sporting what regarded to me like a conventional costume.

After chatting for a minute or two, I requested if she was dressed this manner as a result of it was Easter.

“What do you imply?” she requested. “These are my garments.”

“You’re the one,” she added, “who’s wearing a European costume.”

Regardless of having grown up in Athens and traveled extensively all through Greece, I had by no means earlier than come throughout a neighborhood wherein folks wore such conventional garments of their day-to-day lives.

But, removed from seeming performative, Kalliope’s garments regarded intrinsic to her village — rather more so, as she recommended, than the garments I wore after I greeted her.

After my encounter in Olympos, I made a decision to make a undertaking of exploring the unseen corners of my nation — to satisfy the folks, find out about their conventional practices, and make photographs alongside the best way that might supply a window into Greek tradition for others to see by means of.

4 and a half years later, on a sunny Sunday morning, I discovered myself within the village of Nea Vyssa, in Greece’s excessive northeastern nook, the place I had organized a two-day images session. I sat at one finish of an extended desk, set amid a ravishing blossomed backyard, sipping Greek espresso and tasting the native delicacies.

As girls arrived to be photographed of their conventional apparel, I requested the president of the native cultural membership, Fani, to take me across the village to search out acceptable spots the place I might make the pictures. I normally discover locations which are deserted or simply on the point of being deserted, since usually such locations function customary structure, with none trendy additions or adjustments.

To me, images is about rather more than simply the pictures themselves. I’ve a ardour for rural Greece, and I get pleasure from exploring the idea of xenia, or hospitality — a central advantage that may be traced again to historical Greece.

Nikos Kazantzakis, a celebrated Greek author, describes in his fictionalized autobiography, “Report back to Greco,” how his grandfather would exit at nights, strolling across the darkish alleys of Crete, lantern in hand, to hunt for folks wandering the streets who had nowhere to spend the night time. He would convey them to his house, feed them and supply them a spot to sleep.

I’ve skilled a number of manifestations of this hospitality alone journeys. For the previous 5 years, I’ve visited Tetralofo, a small village of round 300 folks in northern Greece, to doc the normal New Yr’s celebrations generally known as Kotsamania, or Momoeria.

Kotsamania is a theatrical ritual carried out every Christmas by native males who go to properties to want prosperity, abundance and happiness for the yr to return. The entire neighborhood takes half within the celebrations, which contain avenue theater, dancing and the taking part in of conventional devices.

On one event in Tetralofo, whereas I used to be being hosted on the cultural membership, residents would arrive every day to convey me home-cooked meals. Others — folks I’d by no means met — supplied to host me of their homes. I felt proper at house.

Many conventional occasions all through Greece are revivals of outdated customs, carried out to assist the native economic system by drawing vacationers and a spotlight. Typically such occasions really feel kitsch and, in a approach, inauthentic.

Others, although, corresponding to Kotsamania, have survived in unadulterated types and are carried out as real, integral elements of a neighborhood.

Finally, my work makes an attempt to spotlight such customs: to current vivid, complicated depictions of fading traditions, and to assist us keep away from the pitfalls of monotony in our trendy lives.