*A breath, a caesura in music representing a break or a pause.


CAESURA was the closing event of the series of seminars on Mobilities in/of Crises: Critical Investigations that took place at the French School at Athens (EFA) on Thursday, 31 May.

At this event, Georges Salameh presented a collection of six bodies of work which explore different trajectories in the journeys of people forced to flee from their countries for various reasons, mainly wars & catastrophes. The whole offers an oblique perspective on the notion of uprooting.

The work of the following photographers was presented.

Shadows of Greece by Enri Canaj

Patra Palace by Alfredo d’Amato

Limbo by Valentino Bellini & Eileen Quinn

Fragile States by George Awde

Caesura by Demetris Koilalous

The event closed with the screening of the documentary Shingal Where Are You? directed by Angelos Rallis. After the screening, there was a Q&A session with the director.

A discussion between Valentino Bellini, George Awde, Demetris Koilalous,  Angelos Rallis and the audience followed, nit through a thread of short stories by Georges Salameh.

Extracts from the evening presentation

The metaphor of caesura is used to signify the politics and poetics of injurious temporalities defined by wars, authoritarian regimes and neoliberal governmentality, as well as by personal attachments, failed fantasies, uncompleted crossings and affective dispositions of limbo, suspension and waiting. Questioning mainstream representations of such states and the related objectification of people, the discussion will be based on the following questions: Is it possible to challenge the politics of biased representation and what kind of representations can move us beyond the bordered frames of lineal historical narratives and fixed identities? What comes after and beyond the emergency reports? What are the challenges and limitations of witnessing stories of human suffering?

Selecting these works was like writing a fugue, as a rapporteur of inner landscapes.
I will try to introduce every work telling a short story that resonate with each selection, like threads that nit our lives to the stories of other, witnessed for us.


I will begin with an extract of letter of referring to a leaflet found on Omonia square in 2004, few years after my migration to Sicily where I lived for 12 years.

Looking through boxes of archives and old mini-dv tapes, after my relocation to Palermo, I found this leaflet. It catapulted me to that Saturday night's events, in Omonia square, in September 2004. 
Just a week after the closing ceremony of the Athens Olympics.
Three months after the triumph of the Greek Football team at the European Championship.

The next day, On Sunday morning, I came back to the 'crime' scene where it all started, at the square, to look for answers.
I was there to take some photos of the aftermath, but ended up just hanging around, under a warm Athenian autumn sun.
A large group of people mainly youngsters where demonstrating their solidarity towards foreign migrants and singing out their anger to what had happened the night before.
I picked up one of their leaflets from the ground: "That much football, police and nationalism, we hadn't seen since dictatorship".
The Saturday night events came back to me under a new light.
I had witnessed hideous racist acts of violence, but something else emerged.

Tassos & I had gone out to Omonia square to buy the Sunday newspapers.
On our way out from the subway we suffocated into a teargas cloud.
When we reached out of the metro stairs, around us was riot police everywhere, chaos, sirens, street fights, trash bins on fire and ambulances picking up injured.
Surreal and racist scenes!
Hundreds of Albanians had gone out that night to celebrate their team's victory over the Greek one.
Their celebration was not to be allowed by 'Greek hooligans' from extreme right groups with a visible but camouflaged support of policemen in the name of order & security.
The confrontation turned out to become a bloody nightmare: dozens of injured & arrests.
That same night, on the island of Zakinthos, a young Albanian was stabbed to death by a Greek 16 year old boy with the same motives.
Few days later more than 200 Albanians were deported back to their country in the absolute silence of the media. I found some traces of the aftermath in the Karamanlis government spokesman's press release, in Kathimerini and Eleftherotipia, in the Monday newspapers but nothing else.

Those dark moments seem to me today to be the first signs of the beginning of the fall of a nation; as if the Greek Crisis had already begun back then...

Today, from my self-exile, on the island of Sicily, those events are already forgotten, but Greece still lives their impact and drift.

Those word bring me to introduce the work of Enri but here's a short summary to his journey until now.

Enri Canaj was born in Tirana, Albania, in 1980. He spent his early childhood there and moved with his family to Greece in 1991, immediately after the opening of the borders. He studied photography in Athens and in 2007 he took part in a British Council project on migration, attending a year-long workshop with photographer Nikos Economopoulos.
Since 2008, he has been a freelance photographer for major national and international publications.
Enri Canaj is member of Magnum Photos .
At-present he is based in Athens and covers stories in Greece, Albania, and the Balkans, west & north Europe.

How did I meet Enri?

We met in the early formation of the collective Depression Era and through his body of work Shadows of Greece. This collection had a profound impact on me and made me realize that my eight year body of work HEAR YOU ATHENS was only a small chapter in the life of of Athens that had been long gone. Even if our common uprooted gaze on Athens (me uprooted as an adolescent from Beirut, and him uprooted as a boy from Albania) now his eyes, in a vibrant and intuitive gaze on the same city, are revealing its shadowy present (2011-2013) at the early stages of the Greek crises.
So this portrait of Athens is a key to understand this notion of migration and open CAESURA with a mobility that's within the heart and eyes of the photographer.

I will read you a short description that Enri send me about this body of work.

The centre of Athens, as I first remember it, was full of life.

During the period before the Olympic Games, there was great development. New hotels appeared in order to host the visitors, shops, restaurants and cafes kept sprouting up, it was full of people everywhere. All this happened within a few years. It was as if the city put on new clothes. During the days of the Olympics, the city was clean and well-guarded. You would not see street- merchants, drug-addicts or immigrants, just tourists and people who came in order to have a good time. In my eyes, it looked like another place.

As time passed, the city started deteriorating and gradually recovered its previous character: the everyday life that we all knew, with the junkies, the street-merchants and the prostitutes.

Time passes quickly. The city is now almost fading from sight entirely. Some people have abandoned it due to the crisis. Many shops and hotels have shut down, the center is now almost deserted. People fear they will get ripped-off, they hear that this happens all the time. They no longer feel like going out and wandering about like before. They fear seeing the poverty, the destitution, the drug-users who care only about where their hit is coming from, and the women selling themselves for sex.

But for me, those people were always there. I found them all there when I first arrived as a 9-year-old child. They were there when I was growing up. and now as everything has changed beyond recognition around them they are somehow still trapped in their lives, subsisting in terrible circumstances, in squalid houses with little or nothing to give them hope for change.

The immigrants live in small rented rooms, many of them together. The women prostitute themselves in the streets even for 5 Euros. You don’t want to run into them in the street. Yet, hanging around with them has been my daily routine as I sought them out to learn what is happening to our once vibrant city. They are sensitive people facing many problems often with tales of ruined families left behind. Sometimes they give the impression that no one has ever cared for them, as if they desperately want someone to talk to, if only for a moment to get away from the misery they are in. For some of them I had the sense that they were almost looking for someone to open up to and let it all out. Like confessing. What made an impression on me was that the people I met were unguarded about their lives, they talked as if they knew me. Sometimes they talked about difficult things, about what they were experiencing, as if they were talking about someone else. It was easier and felt better this way.

I would only take photographs when I sensed that they were comfortable with me and my camera, usually after some time had passed. Sometimes, unexpected things happened that made me change my mind and plans. Other times, things just happened spontaneously, I followed along. Every image has a story behind in and within it, every person has a story to tell. Together, as a work in progress, these images are my story of the city, they show what is left behind when everything else that once made it so alive has deserted it. Yet when others look at my pictures of these people I want them to respect their spirit to survive and see their dignity, as I do.


Story of an identity card and the Kurdish man 1994.

In my early 20’s after Christmas on one of those trips from Athens to Paris with boat and trains I found myself sharing an empty deck with a young silent man the whole trip from Patra to Brindisi. At the exit he whispered to me: can I stand in front of you in the queue of passport control and if they ask me to speak in Portuguese, I’ll turn to you and tell something and please just nod with your head. No questions were asked though and we passed through the passport check and found ourselves alone (because all the rest of the passengers were truck drivers) in a remote part of the port. So we walked together, and finally I had the courage to ask him about what had just happened. He said I’d tell you later if you guide me to the train station. Outside Brindisi Termini, on a bench, while sharing a fig marmalade sandwich my father had prepared me before my departure, this young Kurdish man scrapped to small pieces his fake Portuguese identity card and said: Now I’m in Europe and my trip to France can begin… we boarded on the same train to Rome but never saw him at the arrival.

This gesture of scrapping even a fake identity to cross the sea and continue the migration journey was probably easier back then but through the years border controls became tighter and the trip from Patra to Brindisi became harder and risky. And that brings me to the body of work Patra Palace by Alfredo, probably the first foreign reporter that photographed with an analog camera thoroughly a community of migrants attempting this crossing but did not sell it to any media outpost because this story at the time was still not fashionable.

Alfredo D’Amato, born in Italy, in 1977.
He studied Art, Media and Design at the London College of Printing. He later graduated with a degree in Documentary Photography from the University of Wales, Newport, UK. He has mainly worked on long-term projects focusing on both, Western and Eastern Europe, Africa and South America, with a particular interest in Portuguese speaking countries, focusing on the interrelationships between African origins and western influences. Alfredo has had his work published in many international newspapers and magazines and has worked with UNHCR, UNICEF and many other NGOs in Europe and further afield. Alfredo won the prestigious Observer Hodge Award and received the first prize in photojournalism at the One Media awards as well as UNICEF Photo of the year in 2005, the same year he was also selected for the World Press Photo Master class and was granted the Marco Pesaresi scholarship in Italy. ‘Cocalari’ (Postcart Editions), is Alfredo’s first photographic monograph, published in 2010. He is currently working on a new book project about lusophone countries in Africa and Brazil. Alfredo’s work is part of the permanent collection at George Eastman House Museum in Rochester, New York State.

Few words from Alfredo about this body of work

Back in 2009 the Greek port of Patras use to be home to around 3,000 illegal immigrants. Most are Afghans, although there are also significant numbers of Iranians and Uzbeks. From here they try to find passage to other European destinations by hiding in ships, containers and trucks parked in the port. The lucky ones will not stay for long. Some, though, have been living in Patras for months and a few for several years.

Many live in shacks made from cartons, plastic and wood found on the beach. Others shelter from the cold by squatting in abandoned buildings without water or electricity. The living conditions are inhumane and unhygienic.

Recent arrivals have been staying outside the city center to avoid police checks. Any illusions they may have had about gaining asylum in Greece are quickly dashed. The authorities routinely fail to recognize the immigrants as asylum seekers and regularly round up groups for deportation to Turkey.

Some manage to reach Italy by hiding inside trucks, or by tying themselves with straps under the lorries and trailers. The journey is treacherous, and scores die during the trip, either suffocating inside trailers or being crushed by trucks. The majority told Alfredo D'Amato that they wanted to get to Sweden or Norway, with Italy their next preferred destination.

Is it possible to challenge the politics of biased representation and what kind of representations can move us beyond the bordered frames of linear historical narratives and fixed identities?

Photographers are common people as anybody else, they have ideas and political direction, they are often looking at the historical and social background before embracing a project, they research about places and stories of people. On the light of this I believe that we all have our point of view, however we carefully choose the language we want to use to tell our story and most of all, the message we want to pass to the viewers.

What comes after and beyond the emergency reports?

In 2009 I was in Athens working on a reportage about Greek economic crisis. When I finished working in the capital, I headed to Patra along with a Greek photographer and a journalist, as they were assigned by a magazine to produce a story on Afghan refugees in Patra.

My colleagues where very excited about the story and most of all about the fact that they had managed to get the assignment. However, I was in another mental state as I had no pressure or deadline to think about. I was going to explore the place, meet with refugees and listen to their stories.

I went with my medium format film camera and about 50 rolls of films thinking that I would take my time to explore and produce a body of work while spending time with Afghan refugees in the camp. My colleagues stayed two nights in a hotel nearby the port of Patra. I was going around with them as they knew the places where refugees were spending their time during the day. After they left, I moved into an hostel and started making visits to the camp for about 8 days.

During my visits I got very close with and Afghan guy named Mohamed, who was staying there with other five young men in an abandoned building close to the camp. While walking around with him, he explained to me how they were living and what they were doing, trying to escape to Italy by ship. I decided to focus my work on him and his friends, thinking that covering the story of a small group of people in the site, would give an idea of the everyday life of refugees in that context.

I spent 8 days in total in Patra, mainly photographing Mohamed and his mates in the camp, around the city and by the port.
I shot more then 50 rolls of 120mm, which I processed while I was back in Italy. I finally selected about 36 images for my final edit.

What are the challenges and limitations of witnessing stories of human suffering?

When I finalized the story with the title "Patra Palace", I started promoting it to several Italian magazines, but my story was never published as no one was interested.

"Patra Palace" was later published on a photography magazine, as well as an online photo website. In 2017, "Patra Palace" was then exhibited at the CIF (Centro Internazionale di Fotografia) in Palermo as part of a collective exhibition on migration.


Story in Lampedusa’s Port in 2010.

I was invited to curate a documentary program in a film festival in Lampedusa called Vento del Nord in the summer 2010. While having lunch, in a tavern above the port, suddenly there was a commotion, that was followed by a heavy silence. Three marine navy boats where bringing in a fishing boat in wrecks. Somebody said behind me: “This one has no survivors I heard, the port captain had announced 9 dead bodies on board but no sign of any survivors. I went down to the port to check closer. A man advised me not to go further: “you wouldn’t handle the smell of death”. And then he handed me a touristic leaflet offering different types of excursions on tourist boats. I ducked it quickly in my pocket, and before I leave he called me: “If you want to see wrecked ships go behind the football court, it’s where their cemetery lays”.

Later that day, I read on the bottom of the leaflet: Per una navigazione sicura e confortevole (se potessero gli immigrati, scelierbbero noi)

For a safe and comfortable navigation (if the immigrants could, they would choose us)

Thank you Valentino for coming.

Eileen Quinn is an Italian/Irish and Human Rights PhD researcher and freelance journalist living in Palermo. She completed her BA in human sciences at the University of Oxford, and her Masters in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She now conducts PhD research on migrant smuggling along the Mediterranean. She has published as freelance journalist for Al Jazeera English, the Financial Times, and the OCCRP among others.

Valentino Bellini was born in Italy, in 1984. He is a documentary photographer born and based in Palermo, Italy. He graduated at CFP R.Bauer of Milan in 2010. Valentino worked at Linke. lab in Milan from 2011 to 2013 specializing in fine art pirinting and image processing. Since 2014, he has been part of the ISSP team in Latvia as co-director of the digital printing lab. In 2015 and 2016 he was nominated for the World Press photo Joop Swart Masterclass. His photographic series about the kidnapping of 43 students in Ayotzinapa, Mexico, was screened at the VISA Pour l’Image Festival 2015 in Perpignan. Valentino is co-founder of Minimum a lab and space for photography in Palermo, Sicily.



Eileen, a writer, along with photographer Valentino, they followed the road of this 21st century Mediterranean commerce, from their native Sicily to Tunisia. “That’s why I came: to understand the Africans we’re rescuing in the Mediterranean: their struggle to integrate and smuggle to Europe with the help of other Africans”, Eileen says.

Limbo, became a zine that combines their photos and words, is the first chapter of an investigation which they pursued…

Eileen explains “We wanted it to look like a newspaper, since the migration issue is not talked about properly in the media”. The paper is the only code they borrowed from newspapers though, stepping back from the common narrative of the past 5 years and shifting the focus from data to geography.

Limbo “wishes to underline how 'destination' has lost its geographic connotation for these men. Hassun, Adama, Usman, Mouhamed and Chams-eddine are all stuck in a place which is not their intended destination, whether physically or psychologically”, she concludes. “The limbo they live through every day in Tunisia is not due to their failure to reach Europe. It is rather their impossibility of crossing a line, of finding a geographic identity.”







Bellini’s photos convey this sense of uncertainty, mostly shot at dawn or dusk, at that time of transition between reality and dreams – dreams that in the case of Valentino’s and Eileen’s subjects have often been wiped away by reality. All of them are compiled in the middle of the book, voicing a unique claim for the right to dignity.

Trapped between two shores and spaces – places where architecture is often reduced to barbed wire fences - the subjects turn visible in the hostile ground where they are left largely ignored. Indeed, “nowhere in the mountain of papers and reports inside the buildings of Tunisian Ministries is there a clear and precise guidance on what to do (or not to do) with illegal immigrants”, a note stipulates.

Close-ups of the sea and questions are spread throughout the work. These questions, “why are you here?” are those systematically asked by authorities to migrants. Limbo offers a staggering answer for those not knowing it, or pretending to.

Marchutka 108

Discussing with Demetris the other day he made me remember something that happened on a trip to Moldova back in 2003, while I was researching & investigating a story about trafficking. (photo/link)

It was during my wanderings on the streets of Chisinau, that this sentence read or heard somewhere, years before, made suddenly sense.

“I think there are things that do not participate in History, they do not have causes or effects; they’re just locked in their own reality.”

Thank you Demetri for coming. 

Demetris Koilalous was born in Athens. Between 1980 and 1989 he was based in the UK where he studied ‘Urban and Regional Planning’ in Edinburgh and ‘Geography’ in London. He took up photography in 1982. Since 1990 he has been working as a freelance photographer. Since 2004 he has been teaching photography in various private and public institutions. In 2005 he created with his students the ‘Sympligada’ photography group. His works are found in private collections and in the collection of the MThPh.

CAESURA is a collection of photographs about the transitory state of refugees and migrants who have entered Greece after crossing the Aegean Sea on their way to Europe. Typically the term CAESURA refers to a brief silent pause in the middle of a poetic verse or a musical phrase, used in this context as a metaphor for a silent break amid two violent and distressed periods.

The landscape of CAESURA stretches reclusive and undisclosed, without distinct landmarks, nevertheless at the same time it remains a real place, absolutely relevant to the topographic context of the Greek borderland. An in-between space without solid identity -like a barren battlefield- caught in an intermediate and fleeting time.

The people of CAESURA appear to be trapped in an ephemeral and transitory space. They transmit an ambiguous feeling of restlessness and tranquility, emanating a sense of timelessness and durability as if they have existed beyond time -standing determined between two discontinuous moments.

CAESURA is a collection of personal narratives and private moments of people who wanted to declare in a silent and a heroic way their new condition as an element of their freedom. They are people who desired to be photographed –like a passage to immortality- exactly because they have achieved to arrive safe, almost like melancholic knights after the battle.

Ultimately, CAESURA does not only address those who were photographed. At the same time it mostly refers to those who weren’t photographed since it essentially addresses the generic identity usually attributed to the fugitive, the one who runs away, the person who adopts an intermediate temporary identity and focuses mostly at a personal and an existential level, attempting to raise questions about human condition and identity.

CAESURA does not intend to provide answers or make a historic statement about this phenomenal mass exodus –a unique experience for post WW2 Europe. Behind the stereotypical nameless mask of the ‘refugee’, these are the portraits of the new European citizens bearing with them the melancholy of their past and the hardship of their route, while demonstrating a determination to place themselves in a new global reality and a commitment to negate the anonymity of History.


I came across George’s work in 2010 while mapping the photography scene in Lebanon that came upon the rubbles of 15 years of civil war Quiet Crossings (photo/link).

I grabbed a quote from the text that presented the work at the time that still resonate today after with what he will present to us.

At play in this body of work are relationships of class, masculinity and nationality; in the places they call home.

I also chose this photo of the Dawra square from his work because this is where today all Syrian refugee in Beirut take transportation to many regions of Lebanon and it’s always crowded with departures and arrivals.
Thank you George for coming.

George Awde is a visual artist, Awde is on the board of directors for the Arab Image Foundation, an associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, and co-founder/co-director of Marra.tein in Beirut. He received his BFA in Painting from Massachusetts College of Art (2004) and his MFA in Photography from Yale University School of Art (2009). Awde’s work explores the formation of kinship, masculinity, the “state,” and the self. His work explores human corporeality and how we reconcile ourselves with the world. Awde’s work has been exhibited and published internationally including seven solo exhibitions and dozens of group exhibitions & publications.


Fragile States chronicles the transitory existence of a group of young men and boys - many of them migrant laborers, emigrants from Syria and Syrian Kurdistan living in the context of Beirut. Intermixed with these quiet intimate portraits are landscapes and still lives, which together raise questions around masculinity, citizenship, and the fragile state between adolescence and manhood.

Considering both land and body, George’s work explores the scars of the flesh with those of the soil. As these men grow and change, the photographs capture physical marks – in the form of tattoos and cuts – giving hints of struggle and survival. Likewise, the landscape allows us to consider our states of belonging. Fragile States is a collaborative exchange photographed over a number of years. These photographs act as witness to the subtle passing of time and coming of age for these young men who are caught in-between their unstable homeland and the challenges they face in the margins of Beirut.

George suggests with this group of images (all 2016) reveal another way bodies get distributed—in this case, via war and economic pressure. The prints were made from photos Syrian men sent to George over WhatsApp after they returned home from Beirut. The vast influx of refugees into the Lebanese capital made it impossible for them to find work (whether sex work or more sanctioned forms of labor), so some made the reverse journey, dedicating themselves to fighting instead. Printed at the scale of a cell-phone photo and presented as high-art photographs (costly silver gelatin prints, luxurious black matting, and elegant wooden frames), the pictures are mostly peaceful: two men handing each other flowers, a row of youngsters leaning against a wall. But viewing them (so small, so hard to make out, the truth of them eclipsed in the same way life in Syria is eclipsed for those of us looking from the outside) is to be saturated in melancholy.

George suggests with this group of images a subtler, more oblique picture of how quotidian movements are manipulated by intangible powers. Public Shadows (2017) is a grid of some 430 Polaroid-sized, slightly blurred, highly processed black-and-white photographs. They show fragmented figures: the nape of a neck, a bowed back, an ass being offered. Only occasionally does a model reveal his face (they are almost all young men), looking vacantly into the camera. Some of the subjects were George’s friends, some he connected with online in Cairo and Beirut (where homosexuality exists on the fringes of legality). As a study in the pursuit of pleasure and unequal power dynamics, he met with them in private spaces if the boys had access to apartments, in public spaces (often, sites for cruising) if they didn’t. Higher-class status correlates to more privacy, hence, obviously, greater safety; but either way this was a dangerous project, for George and especially for his models. The abject photographs (dark and somewhat brutal portraits of vulnerability) serve as fugitive documentation of how desiring bodies circulate in places where they are endangered.

I came across Angelos’s work in 2016 while searching for films about the Iraq war and its repercussions.
I didn't know Angelos back then but a filmmaker friend mentioned his name and after contacting him I discovered a dedicated documentarian through both his film and photography work.

Thank you Angelos for coming.

Angelos Rallis is a documentary filmmaker and photojournalist who started his career as a theatre play director for the Greek National Television and Athens University. He then moved to UK to do research in visual sociology in the Centre for Urban and Community Research. Since then he commenced a long-term project documenting London’s East End emerging cultures and communities. His work has been published in Newspapers, and has been used by press agencies and NGO’s around the world. He is the director of the award winning documentary film A Place for Everyone 2014 (10 Awards at International festivals) and the Director of the film Shingal Where Are You? premiered at IDFA 2016.

Shingal Where Are You?

In 2014, the Yezidi city of Shingal in northern Iraq was conquered and destroyed by the so-called Islamic State. The terror group murdered thousands of men and kidnapped 3,000 women and girls, who were kept as slaves. In a deserted coal mine on the Turkish border, thousands of Yezidi refugees wait for a safe return.

Through the eyes of an older man, a teenage boy and a family, Shingal Where Are You? illustrates the burdens and dilemmas of this persecuted religious minority. Hanging around ruins and fishing pools, children discuss shockingly adult topics, such as the chances of another genocide taking place, and how much better life would be in Europe. In the meantime, the Havind family tries desperately to understand what has happened to them. Inconsolable, they talk on the phone with their daughter who reports from the slave camp. They try to buy her freedom through a chain of intermediaries and get close to the IS lines. The suffering is made all the more palpable when the family visits their city of Shingal, which has been reduced to rubble.

The film is told in raw cinematography from the parallel perspective of three generations of Yezidis, Kani Shingal? is a cinematic journey of loss and memory of the Yezidi identity that is once more threatened by the complex geopolitics in Kurdistan.