Exploring Greece’s Unseen Corners

The smell of Easter pastries lured me into a modest bakery in Olympos, a Greek island community on Karpathos, in 2016. Kalliope, the owner, was dressed in what looked like a regular outfit.

After a few minutes of conversation, I inquired as to whether she was dressed this way since it was Easter.

She inquired, “What do you mean?” “These are my clothes,” she said.

After pointing out that she was dressed in a European costume, she said, “You are the one.”

As a native of Athens and a traveler throughout Greece, I had never before encountered a group of people who dressed in such traditional clothing in their daily life.

However, Kalliope’s clothes did not appear staged; rather, they were a part of her community, more so, as she advised than the clothes I wore after I had greeted her.

With Olympos, I decided to take a journey around my country, meeting people, learning about their traditions, and photographing them as a way to give a glimpse into Greek culture to those who hadn’t seen it before.

The following year, on a lovely Sunday morning in Greece’s far northeastern corner, I found myself in the small village of Nea Vista, where I had scheduled a two-day photo shoot. Sipping Greek coffee and sampling the local delights, I sat at the end of a long table in a beautiful blossoming garden.

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To find suitable locations to photograph the women in their traditional attire, I asked Fani, head of the local cultural association, to lead me around the village. In my search for abandoned or near-deserted locations, I usually come across traditional structures with no modern additions or changes.

Images, to me, are about much more than just the images themselves. Xenia, or hospitality, is an important advantage that can be traced back to ancient Greece, a subject that particularly interests me because of my love of rural Greece.

During the night, Nikos Kazantzakis’ grandpa would walk the streets of Crete, carrying a lamp, in search of people who had nowhere to stay for the night, as shown in his fictionalized autobiography, “Report back to Greco.” Feeding and sheltering the homeless would be taken care of by him.

I’ve experienced several facets of this kindness on my travels. The traditional New Year’s celebrations, known as Kotsamania or Momoeria, take place in Tetralofo, a small northern Greek village of about 300 residents, every year.

When native men walk door-to-door on Christmas Eve to make wishes for the coming year, they perform a theatrical rite known as Kotsamania. The events include street theatre, dancing, and the playing of traditional instruments.

Residents of Tetralofo would come to my house every day to bring me home-cooked meals while I was staying there on a cultural membership. Others offered to welcome me into their houses, even though I had never met them before. In the privacy of my own home, I felt at ease.

There are many traditional events in Greece that revive old rituals in an attempt to boost the local economy by luring tourists and drawing attention. Typically, these events feel cheesy and unauthentic.

The Kotsamanians, on the other hand, are still alive and thriving in their original, unadulterated forms.

Finally, my work aims to draw attention to such practices by presenting vivid and complex images of rapidly disappearing habits and helping us avoid the monotony of modern life’s traps.

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