I began working on this series of photographs in February 2012, after the rioting and looting which took place in Athens' city center.

During an anti-austerity demonstration, a significant number of buildings were set on fire. Since the riots of 2008 following the murder of student Alexandros Grigoropoulos, the events of February 2012 were the most devastating Athens had experienced. A lot of rumors circulated during that time. People blamed the vandalism and rioting not only on anarchist groups, but on the suspicion of other, more sinister motives, on agent provocateurs and an organized plan involving targeted attacks and pre-marked maps.

Since that night, I set out to record images of the streets of Athens under the artificial city light. Overwhelmed with mainstream media images of riot police and Molotov cocktails, I tried to use a more subtle approach. Trying to capture the feelings of distress, abandonment and decay one encounters today, I chose to photograph in the nighttime. Walking around the historic center offers the experience of a deserted and battered ghost city, a specter of what it stands for. Public buildings, statues, parks, symbols of the city acquire a character that reflects more clearly their present state and significance.

Among these, a statue of a Satyr, a mythical half-man, half-goat, stands on a bush in the National Gardens and gives a sinister smile. A CCTV monitors the entrance of the Archaeological Museum, a junkie hangout. A building that once housed the Ministry of Education is now evacuated as the state cannot afford the high rent demanded by the Greek Church, which owns the property. Palm trees infected by bark-eating pests die a slowly death, steadily infecting the neighboring palms. The bust of Pericles’s consort and advisor, Aspasia, features a severed nose. A plastic bag full of bread is placed outside the Archaeological Society for the homeless. The empty hallways of Areios Pagos, the Supreme Court, reflect the cases that need be resolved.

These silent witnesses speak to us about the crisis, allegorical but sincere.

—Yiannis Hadjiaslanis


Editor's Note: We discovered Hadjiaslanis' work at the 
Thessaloniki PhotoBiennale. The Festival is open all summer, from May through August 2014.

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