In partnership with the new Medphoto Festival, we are pleased to present a series of articles highlighting the event’s programming. Below, we feature the work from the top three entries to the first ever Medphoto Award—Greece’s first ever international photography prize. The award was given to a documentary photography project in progress and came with a 5,000 euro grant to help complete the work.
See the ongoing projects above and learn more about each in the texts below. Congratulations to all!
1st place, Winner
Dimitris Michalakis, Greece
Since 2009, a sizeable part of the Greek population has been forced to face the consequences of a severe capitalist-financial crisis. Following a three-party agreement between the Greek government, the EU and the IMF, successive austerity packages have dismantled the country’s social fabric: an estimated 23% of Greeks are presently living below the poverty line; youth unemployment (15-24 years) has reached 62%; 1.5 million people are currently unemployed. As the recession continues to deepen, the circumstances experienced by Greek society are comparable to those during the Second World War.
In Menidi, one of the poorest and most rundown suburbs in Athens, we find a microcosm of the tragedies of human geography during the Greek crisis era. The Kapota camp was inaugurated in 1999, in the aftermath of a devastating September earthquake. Eventually, it was ceded by the Greek armed forces for other uses. Initially, 400 prefabricated homes were set up within the Kapota camp, but another 550 were added soon after. The Greek state’s original plan was for the earthquake victims to stay there for two years after which they were to be transferred back to their repaired homes.
Almost 16 years later, more than 3,500 people continue to live in the camp’s modified containers. Thus, the modern-day camp constitutes a society with all the characteristics of a ghetto: poverty, social exclusion, isolation, long-term unemployment, hopelessness. People here encounter dozens of manifestations of psychological, health and economic hardship. Many of the residents, mainly repatriates from the former Soviet republics, have already been through traumatic situations they were unable to manage. Their continuing struggles bring up issues that torment more deeply over time.
“The Dawn War”
Emilien Urbano, France
On the 10th of June, 2014, the jihadist Islamic State went on the offensive, laying siege to Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul. Around the same time, ISIS went ahead and declared itself to be the Caliphate, ruled by a rigorous and extremist vision of Islamic law. Abu Baker Al Baghadadi, the self-declared Caliph, came to see himself as the ruler of Syria and Iraq. In response, Kurdish fighters from Iraq, Syria and Turkey have risen to fight against this proposed rule.
Across seized territories in Iraq and Syria—brutally dominated by the jihadists—ISIS has carried out a campaign of capture, enslavement and mass killings. Their targets range from any and all minorities: Yazidis, Kurds, Christians or Shia Muslims. Kurdish fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Peshmergas have become the main force fighting against the jihadists in northern Syria and northern Iraq, doing their utmost to hold out against this self-declared Caliphate.
To further complicated matters, the Kurdish people inhabiting a wide-spread region spanning Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran have harbored a wish (for one hundred years) of achieving an independent state. Amidst the horror of the situation in the Middle East, they are able to dream, for the first time, of a homeland. The pictures of this on-going documentary project have been taken between Iraq, Syria, and Turkey since August 2014.
Giovanni Cocco, Italy
“Displacement” is a project that combines narrative and photography, with Giovanni Cocco and Caterina Serra offering a dialogue between two different ways of seeing that do not want to be overly explicative of each other.
The question: What is left of a city that has lost its inhabitants? Where does the physical city end and the living one begin? What happens to its genius loci when its citizens are lost, and displaced to the anonymity of suburbia?
The project took shape while we worked on a city that in Italy is a symbol for the loss and dispersion of a community: L’Aquila.
The earthquake on the 6th of April, 2009 converted the historical town into a building site. Almost overnight, the beautiful place was rendered into an undistinguished non-lieu of new buildings, resurfaced from the dusty debris under the guise of refurbished hotels, coffee shops and wine bars—as if these were the only suitable places for social life. The population meanwhile has been shifted and exiled into the New Towns: dormitory suburbs with centers that are nothing but the roundabouts of shopping malls, where one can feel a deep material and spiritual disorientation.
Over the course of 2014 and 2015, we immersed ourselves in this city to capture and document its loss and follow the population displacement towards the edges of the urban map. The old city, amidst rubble and neglect, and the new town, dislocated and decentered, emerge as the representation of a two-faced country, torn in its inability to value its inner strength, skills or beauty.