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Athens News Agency photojournalist Yannis Kolesidis talked about his new photography project “Islanders” and the experience of traveling to border region islands in winter when the lights of the tourist season have gone out.

-the project was implemented in the framework of the 1st cycle of the #incubator pillar of iMEdD.

In the summer of 2007, following an invitation of friends, I managed to find a small break – between continuous photographic missions – and travel to Folegandros to join them for three days. I remember that I had to pull a few strings with colleagues covering maritime stories to find a ticket amidst the peaking tourism season.

Locals in Karpathos – Wintertime

The picture I have as a memory is the sense of carefree living, never-ending fun and friendly disposition that was prominent in the Chora square, which was a meeting point for locals and visitors alike.

Traditional cast iron tables at the coffee-houses, bursting with people, with the same music filling the air from all the small bars surrounding the picturesque square and the sweet taste of baked raki served by local tavernas.

In November 2017, I asked the Athens News Agency – where I work – to follow a group of Greek military doctors who would offer medical care to the locals of border region islands. The Hellenic Navy ship “Promitheus” was to embark from Elefsina and travel fo six different island destinations for a week. The first stop was Folegandros. After a few minutes ride on the municipal bus, we arrived at the rural clinic in Chora.

Locals in Karpathos – Wintertime

It took me quite some time to understand that I was standing across the same square that I had so vividly connected with my summer memories. Desolate, depressing, without a sign of life.

Only the cold winter wind roamed the circular border of the square and as it “scraped” against its surface made an eerie almost chilling whistle. A perfect contrast of the same place in two different seasons.

This is how I got the idea of recording the life and difficulties of islanders when the lights of the tourist season go out.

Locals in Karpathos – Wintertime

My “need” to learn what happens when the people and places that happily welcome us for the creation of lovely summer memories, are left behind. 

It is the idea I submitted in the first cycle of iMEdD’s incubator and this is how this wonderful journey of discoveries begun. Thanks to iMEdD I traveled to Agathonisi and accompanied Mr. Giorgos for his medical examinations to Samos, sensing his worry about the lack of an experienced doctor. I traveled to Karpathos, attending the festival of Olympos, at the medieval village where tradition is passed on from one generation to the next but is threatened by a diminishing population. I traveled to the southernmost end of Europe, Gavdos, to see the sunrise from the sea and accompany the only two pupils to their school. I traveled to Anafi, to climb the huge cliff, the second-highest monolith of Europe and meet the wonderful headmaster of the school who, along with the few young locals, restore social life on the island in winter.

With the help of the people of iMEdD, the idea for a photography project is now transformed into a powerful audiovisual experience, soon to be released.

Thanks to their guidance, photography is now used solely for recording purposes but becomes the medium that gives a voice to its protagonists. The person standing before the photograph is at the same time a viewer and a listener.

Yiannis Kolesidis

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