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Dimitris Michalakis November 7, 2013

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Greece.
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Gypsy Settlement from the project “Nato Avenue”. Athens, Greece 2008

Dimitris Michalakis (b. 1977, Greece) studied photography at the Focus School of Photography in Athens. Since 2004 he has been a regular contributor to K Magazine, (Kathimerini Sunday edition). His photographs have been published in Spiegel, Die Zeit and  Rolling Stones Magazine. Dimitris has traveled on journalistic missions to more than 30 countries, mainly in the former Soviet Union. His work has been exhibited at the Coalmine Gallery, Zurich, the LUMIX Festival for Young Photojournalism in Hanover, Germany and the Bursa Photography Festival in Turkey. He is currently based in Athens.

About the Photograph:

“Nato Avenue, in the western suburbs of Αthens, crosses the most degraded part of the city. The area is a puzzle of urban sprawl; factories, refineries, shipyards a military airport and the largest rubbish dump in the country. Right below this dump, gypsy immigrants from North Albania have come and settled. They have built a settlement that grew bigger as more Albanian gypsies kept coming. They make their living in the rubbish dump. The work is divided; men collect recyclable material, paper, plastic and steel, while women gather clothes, carpets or anything thrown away by super markets and food companies. It is fenced and guarded. Police have destroyed the settlement every now and then and are on constant patrol making access to the dump almost impossible.”

“Vassilis, the first immigrant to arrive in this land, is my narrator. Vassilis came here all alone. His children and grand children followed. They all live together in an abandoned barn surrounded the shanty town built around it. The structure of his family, like every other family of this community, is patriarchal. As the oldest man of the family, has the first and the last word. He sells his daily merchandise to the recycling companies of the area, while women collect, wash and sell clothes in flea markets in Greece and Albania. Vassilis an informal leader. They call him detector, not only because he finds good merchandise, but also because he is found this location in 1991. He guided me through this settlement and I’m indebted to him for all his help on my Nato Avenue project.”

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