I was recently asked to take some promotional pictures for the upcoming theater production of Albert Camus’ “Le malentendu” by m0mentum theater group. I have recently felt the strong need to try new things, so this seemed like a great opportunity. Plus, it was a chance for me to combine two of my loves: theater and photography.
The photoshoot took place on a fine Sunday morning in the old and abandoned military camp of Karatasios. It is one of the two big abandoned military camps in west Thessaloniki (the other one is the Pavlos Melas camp). I had recently scouted the whole place (it’s enormous) for my latest personal project (more on that sometime soon). I finally chose no to shoot the project there, so this seemed like a fine opportunity to use this location. I mean who doesn’t love old , dirty, half-ruined buildings?
There are seven actors in this play, so for me that meant I had seven different models to play with that day (you might recognize one of them from here). They were all super helpful and made my job so easy. The photoshoot took all morning and in the end we got some pretty cool pictures and personally, I had so much fun! I am really looking forward to doing something like this again!
Some backstage photos by Stathis Papoulidis:
Info about the play:
Writer: Albert Camus
Translation: Eleni Kitsopoulou
Director: Stathis Papoulidis
Actors: Anna Kolokotroni, Afroditi Tsakiri, Georgia Lampidou, Dionysis Gonatas, Kalliopi Ksanthopoulou, Katerina Ganda and Michalis Mantas
Photography: Nicki Panou
Poster sketch: Dionysis Kalaitzis
Poster design: Georgia Lampidou
Dates: 27 & 30/5, 20:30 Vafopouleio cultural center
Duraition: 80 min.
FREE ENTRANCE by offering food and personal hygiene products as a contribution to the Social Grocery Store.
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postcards from “Unseen Thessaloniki “
Ever since I completed “Unseen Thessaloniki”, it has been on my mind to offer not only limited edition fine art prints, but also some more affordable options. So, it is my pleasure to be able to offer you quality posters from any picture that is part of the series, as well as a postcard set that contains all the pictures with a brief text on their back!
The posters’ dimensions are 30x40cm (11,8″x15,7″) and they are printed on 130gr opaline paper. Perfect on any wall, or as a gift to a fellow photography lover!
The postcards come in a set of nine, featuring all the pictures in the series, matched with a brief description on their back. Their size is 12x12cm (4,7″x4,7″) and they are printed on 300gr opaline paper. Such a cute gift idea!
As always, limited edition, signed and numbered prints, on archival quality fine art paper are available, in three editions and sizes:
Editions of 15, 30×30 cm (11.8″x11.8″)
Editions of 7, 50×50 cm (19.7″x19.7″)
Editions of 5, 75x75cm (29.5″x29.5″)
Recently I saw that there was an open call for a local photography contest. The subject was one of Thessaloniki’s oldest buildings, called Bensousan Han (about 200 years old). It used to be a han, think of it as a bed-and-breakfast, only you could bring your horse too. Recently the building has been given a new life as a cultural space, where many of the city’s events take place. I first visited some years ago to see a theatrical play and instantly fell in love, wishing I could someday make a photoshoot there.
So, when I read about the contest, I jumped with excitement! Photographers were invited to participate in the contest by organizing a half-hour photoshoot anywhere inside the building. Each photographer could submit one picture to the contest. All the pictures will be exhibited inside the building on December 14th, when the names of the winners will also be announced.
I spent a couple of days trying to come up with an idea that could be easily executed in half an hour but also be relevant to the buildings character as much as possible. I asked Katerina, who is an actress I played with during my theater days, to come model for me and she excitedly said yes. So, on the day of the photoshoot we met a bit early to discuss the idea and talk about my photoshoot process, so we could make the most out of those precious thirty minutes.
Katerina really rose to the occasion and immediately got into character and nailed her pose (she is a great actress after all), so my job was fairly easy. My original idea changed as I started to shoot and I decided to go with what made more sense in terms of mood and colour.
I spent quite some time editing it and of course I would have loved it if I had another thirty minutes for the shoot, but on the other hand I enjoyed the challenge and the opportunity. I even had about five minutes get a couple more shots with Katerina, just for fun!
I am really looking forward to the exhibition!
UPDATE: I am so honoured that my photo won the first place! A big thank you to the jurors for picking me and to the sponsors for their nice gifts!
Many years before the villas of the countryside district, there was another area of Thessaloniki that was famous for its luxurious mansions and wealthy residents. That place was Urendjick, which in turkish means “little paradise”, and today it’s called Retziki or Pefka. That is where what’s left from Djeck Abbott’s famous estate lies today, known as Delasalle grove.
Already since the 17th and mainly the 18th century, there was a community of European ambassadors and merchants from Thessaloniki, that had formed in Retziki, who had their summer homes there. Among them, the Abbott family, that had land in the area until the Napoleonic wars led its residents away. The most famous member of this family was Djeck Abbott, one of the most fascinating personalities of the ottoman empire and among the three wealthiest people in Thessaloniki. In 1825 Djeck Abbott reclaimed his granfather’s land in Retziki and turned it into an enchanting resort once again, with works that cost him 1.000.000 turkish pounds.
In Djeck Abbott’s estate there were about 300 different species of trees and plants. There was also Djeck Abbott’s house, about which there is no information and also a two-story fortress tower that still stands today, although it’s in critical condition since no restoration has taken place. Lately there have been coordinated efforts to save this unique monument and turn it into a folk museum.
In this idyllic place it was that Abbott used to invite the European ambassadors and merchants with their families every Sunday, for drinks at the small square underneath the cedar and chestnut trees, among fountains and marble statues. One important person that visited the estate was the famous American writer of “Moby-Dick”, Herman Melville, who visited Thessaloniki in 1856.
But the most important day for Djeck Abbott in Retziki was when Sultan Abdul Mejid visited in 1858. It is said that Djeck bought all the carpets of Thessaloniki and covered the road along the way in a distance of 7km. He also constructed a turkish bath for his high visitors, costing 25.000 francs, which was turned after 1902 into a chapel of St. Therese and lies on the highest point of Delasalle grove.
According to the story, all of Thessaloniki was invited to Retziki. There were choirs and orchestras along the way. “The Sultan arrived at the entrance (where the Delasalle’s primary school entrance is today). He put his right foot on the carriage’s step. But he sky was cloudy. A blinding lightning, followed by a terrible thunder … (silence!…). These fenomena were interpreted as bad omens by the Sultan, who immediately put his right foot again next to the left one and refused to climb down!!” Abbott begged him to at least have a coffee and he lit a brazier with a fire made of banknotes. The Sultan asked if “coffee is tastier when it boils with money or with coal” and he gave Abbott a tax exemption. He then left, without ever setting foot on the estate.
A big fire at Thessaloniki’s french district and the harbor in 1856 destroyed a large portion of Abbott’s property. That was the reason he had to sell his estate in Retziki. So the estate changed owners until in 1902 it was bought by the Fréres de la Congrégation de Saint Jean-Baptiste De la Salle, who had settled in Thessaloniki since 1888 and ran a French school. Initially the Fréres used the estate in Retziki for summer homes and for their rest every Thursday afternoon. They also bringed their students from Thessaloniki for daily excursions. They took care of the gardens and animals.
In 1968 Delasalle college was transferred in Retziki. Of the 56 acres that the Freres owned, 30 were transfered to the municipality of Pefka in the 90s. Today the Delasalle grove lies next to college’s facilities, open to the public. In the recent years there have been some maintenance works, however there still are many actions to be taken so that this place of historic, cultural, religious and environmental value is fully taken advantage of.
zeitenlik, which means “olive grove” in turkish, lies near Lagada st. about 1.5 km north of Vardaris square. It is the biggest military necropolis in Greece since the end of WWI. Here are buried more than twenty thousand soldiers from the Entente forces, French, British, Italian, Russian, Serbian, but also some Bulgarian prisoners of war, who all lost their lives in the battles of the Macedonian front between 1914 and 1919.
In the cemetery’s entrance there is a Serbian cenotaph housing the bones of roughly 5.500 Sebian soldiers, making it a place of pilgrimage for the serbian people.
From the beginning it was the Allies that took responsibility for this area and it is truly remarkable the good condition the place is in and the great respect that has been shown for the dead of this war. It is really sad to think what would have happened if the greek state had the responsibility to look after this place.
My first visit here happened by chance a few years ago, when I was in the area and had time to spare. The moment you walk inside, it is like all sounds cease to exist, even though there is a very busy road right outside. You are overcome with a strange feeling, as you realize that all these endless crosses represent people, mostly young ones, that lost their lives here, away from all that they loved. And for what reason?
It is a place that reminds you that in death we are all equals. From the soldier to the high ranking officer they all have a cross or a plaque with their name, age and perhaps a small tribute from their family. The only tomb that stands out is in the british sector and it belongs not to a man, but to the only woman that is buried here.
That woman is Katherine Harley, a British nurse with the Scottish Women’s Hospitals (SWH), who served in France before coming to Greece to help the Macedonian front. In late 1915 she helped establish a hospital in a disused tobacco warehouse in the town of Gevgelia and later she established a motorized ambulance unit – The Transport Column. The role of the unit was to operate near the front line to collect Serbian casualties and bring them to the SWH hospitals for treatment. In late 1916 she had to end the unit’s function because of some of the drivers reckless behaviour. Together with her daughters she went to the recently liberated town of Monastir (today Bitola), where she acted independently, providing assistance to the inhabitants of the town. The population in Bitola then suffered from diseases, illnesses and the ravages of war and was in especially bad condition. Katherine Harley rented a house within the town, which was on the actual front line, with the Bulgarian and German army located on the surrounding mountains from where Monastir (Bitola) was constantly bombarded.
On 7th March 1917 Katherine Harley was with her daughter, when the shell hit in the street, shattering the window glass, which pierced her head.
Even though she was a civilian at the time of her death, her body was moved to Zeitenlik with great honors and the presence of Prince George of Serbia and General Milne, the commander of the British forces. On her grave it is written: “The generous English lady and great benefactress of the Serbian people, Madame Harley a great lady. On your tomb instead of flowers the gratitude of the Serbs shall blossom there for your wonderful acts. Your name shall be known from generation to generation.”
On the day of the photoshoot, when I arrived at the british sector I met two workers that were taking care of the place. One of them asked me: “Serbian? English?” I said: “Greek”. He was surprised. “Usually only the Serbs come here.”
I first tried to photograph this lake a few years ago. I knew it had completely dried out and I wanted to capture the size of this catastrophe. Since I didn’t know exactly how to get there, I headed to the village of Agios Vasileios, thinking that I could find some passage to the lake from there. However, I was not able to find such passage or anybody to ask, so I kept circling the lake with my car. At some point when I was at the other side of the lake, I decided to leave my car and walk through the fields towards the lake. Again I could not reach it. I could only see some small signs with numbers on them. I later came to know that these signs once showed the lake’s limits, which was now nowhere to be seen. I was not able to find the lake, or its remains, so I left empty handed.
Over the last few years the lake started getting some water back and some of its inhabitants, birds and fish, returned. I decided to include Koroneia in the unseen Thessaloniki series, because of its history. The photoshoot I had planned turned out to be full of surprises, as I eventually had to go to the lake three times to make it happen, as if someone was sabotaging me. The fisrt time my memory card failed and I lost all the pictures. The second time the weather was unsuitable and the third time I did complete the photoshoot, but when I downloaded the pictures on my pc I realized I hadn’t been shooting raw files. I at least hope all these setbacks were for the best.
Lake Koroneia (or Lagada) lies some kilometers outside Thessaloniki and during the last years it has faced serious drying issues. Before it started losing its water it was the fifth largest lake in Greece. Lake Koroneia – as well as the neighbouring lake Volvi – has been characterized as an internationally important wetland (Ramsar) and special protection zone for wild birds, natural habitats and wild fauna and flora.
It’s a beautiful wetland that has been drained by thousands of illegal boreholes and infected by nearby factories that turned waters into toxic mud. After the 80s the water levels started to fall gradually. Millions were spent in both greek and european funds for the lake’s salvation, but most of them ended up in a bottomless pit.
In the summer of 2007, 30.000 birds died and in 2008 the lake dried out. For a long period no migratory bird would come to the lake, instead they went to lake Volvi, were the food was not enough. In 2014 during the fall and winter seasons, as well as during the spring, the heavy snow and rainfall brought water to the lake, which was 2 meters deep in some spots, and covered spots that were previously completely dry. After almost 10 years the lake became once again home to thousands of wild birds.
The former governor of Thessaloniki, Panagiotis Psomiadis, was sentenced to 11 months in prison in 2014, concerning the lake’s environmental death. The case was examined in second degree and it was about the delay in enforcing fines or their reduction against industrial units around the lake’s area.
Trains always fascinated me and many others I suppose. Perhaps it’s because we had no trains where I grew up, so any time we happened to come across one travelling alongside us in the highway, I would be ecstatic. Perhaps it’s because they still have their kind of romance. Perhaps it’s because they have starred in many stories in books and films. So, when I heard that somewhere in Thessaloniki there is a train cemetery, one thing was for sure: I had to go and see it. After a long research I went there to shoot my new picture for the unseen Thessaloniki series, which I have been working on for the past few months.
The train cemetery has been in N. Ionia, Thessaloniki for at least 30 years now. Thousands of abandoned train wagons lie still like ghosts, on ten abandoned train tracks. It is considered the biggest train cemetery in Greece and it is said that wagons started being left there between 1960-70. Up to this day this is where wagons go when they can no longer be used. Somewhere among them are even some antique wagons from 1895 that used to travel between Thessaloniki-Instabul (JSC– JonctionSalonique-Constantinople) and even vehicles that were taken as trophies by the Germans during WWII. Sadly, no one cared to highlight all this heritage somehow. On the contrary, the trains were left unguarded and those that survived the years and the raging nature, were taken apart piece by piece to be sold illegally as scrap. Recently the greek railway company stated that they are going to sell all this material that has been abandoned, not only in Thessaloniki but all over Greece. However the trains are still where they were once left, under the mercy of time, the weather and people.
Just a 5 minute car ride from my house, lies one of Thessaloniki’s treasures that few people even know about. It is the archeological park of byzantine watermills in the area of Polichni. In the past people would come here for small getaways, as the area was remarkably beautiful (water, trees, fauna and flaura at their best). Today five watermills and a press have been saved and they have been named “monuments of the byzantine and post-byzantine era”.
The watermills are part of a 12-watermill system that was developed in byzantine times along the stream, which sprang from mountain Hortiatis and ended up in Thermaikos gulf. In 1996 the municipality of Polichni began efforts to upgrade the area, which was filled with waste over the years, aiming to turn it into an urban park with an archeological and a cultural character.
The stream has water all year round depending on the season and the quantity of rain. The natural vegetation is varied and rich. According to a study that was made by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, there is a habitat for rare species with over 194 different native plants.