In the secret alleys and bizarre areas of Athens and Piraeus, photographer Didier Ben Loulou managed to capture on camera, the energy flow within the bodies of immigrants and street people of Greece, as well zero in on the look in their eyes.
This is exactly what he had in mind when publishing his photo album book “Athenes.” Ben Loulou wanted to highlight this hidden, strange side of Greece and the “epicenter” of Europe’s crisis.
The one apparent thing in Ben Loulou’s photos are the scar-riddled bodies of immigrants and eyes that emit desperation. It is through the look in their eyes captured on camera that allows viewers to picture Athens in their own unique way.
One of the photos shows a man with skin color that can’t be distinguished with certainty, in front of a backdrop of two-thousand year old ancient columns. Another picture features an inscription written in Greek lost among others written in Thai and Chinese. “At first, Greeks welcomed the immigrants that came to Greece. After all, many Greeks have left their country and migrated abroad in search for a better future. However, now a significant number of Greeks support the Greek neo-Nazi political group Golden Dawn and its practices.”
Who is Didier Ben Loulou?
Didier Ben Loulou has been working in various Mediterranean cities such as Jerusalem, Palermo, Thessaloniki, and Marseille, for several years. He visited Athens just before the outbreak of the economic crisis between the years 2006-2009. “I felt the crisis coming and the rejection of the immigrants” Ben Loulou says.
“I discovered secret corners and alleys where people from all over the world, from Sudan, Sri Lanka, and Eritrea meet each other. We must of course add Greeks and Romas to these people as well. All these wanderers and street people remind me of 19th century Paris as the city was depicted by Charles Negre’s camera.”
During his spell in Athens, Didier Ben Loulou made a kind of social survey. Through his camera, he tried to depict and highlight the lives of people who live away from their countries, like they are ostracized. His work exhibits the poverty of people who found themselves in Greece by accident.
He explains, “for them, Athens is a short stop in their long journey. It is a tragic, parallel world that is lost. They are something like contemporary metics.” Poems of George Markopoulos are incorporated in his book that was published in 2013.