Contemporary Art Center of Thessaloniki, 12-26 March 2016
In October 2013 a number of people who make their living selling the street paper ‘Shedia’ were handed a camera. All of them are experiencing social exclusion at its most extreme as a direct result of the current social and economic crisis: some of them are currently homeless, others have experienced homelessness in the recent past, while some others may be living in insecure housing conditions, well under the poverty line.
Their mission was to capture city life from their own unique perspective; to record without constraints or limitations the things that catch their eye, the city moments, the people and the places that bring a smile to their face, fill them with anger, sadness or life, using their feelings as a guide. Two well-known Greek photographers, Nikos Pilos in Athens and Andreas Tsonidis in Thessaloniki undertook the task of teaching them the basic principles of the art of photography and to help them see beyond the viewfinder. The main objective of the initiative was to energize people who are experiencing social exclusion, to provide them with new life incentives through photography, to encourage them to develop new communication skills, connecting them with the rest society, to make them feel part of a collective effort. The objective was for people to create and to reintegrate.
Months and tens of thousands of photographic images later, the material amassed constitutes a unique social narrative: a country deep in socio-economic crisis, of people who are suffering, but also of people determined not to let go, who keep on hoping, dreaming and fighting.
“The lens pulled together all the fragments that make up my existence; the whole process provided me with an opportunity to break down barriers. I was always afraid of photographs. I was afraid they would expose a side of myself I didn’t want others to see. I photographed homeless people who hadn’t seen themselves in the mirror for years. When I showed them the images of themselves, they were shocked. One man remarked that he had lost weight, another realized that he had grown old... it all made them sad.” I felt like a collector, collecting fragments of life. Ruined values are piling up on our streets, discarded rubbish, human wrecks. This is how Matina, a 56-year-old homeless lady who participated in the project, described her experiences.
During the photo exhibition awareness raising actions to sensitize pupils and teachers on social exclusion and the marginalization of vulnerable social groups will take place by the NGOs Antigone and Praksis.
The photo exhibtion is organized by the street paper Shedia with the Documentary Festival of Thessaloniki, the State Museum of Contemporary Art, the Contemporary Art Center of Thessaloniki with the support of Heinrich-Böll-Foundation Greece, Οmilos Ygeia, Green-Cola, Masoutis and Ktima Gerovasileiou.
Photographers: Christos Dokalis, Lefteris Eleftherakis, Bessy Zachari, Nikos Kakavaladis, Giannis Kotsos, Alexandros Nanos, Matina Paschali, Ioulia Symeonidou, Giannis Fokas