Press Conference for the exhibition “The Journey. People on the Move”

SolidarityNow and the administration of the Benaki Museum held a Press Conference on Monday, 16/05, to announce the photo exhibition “The Journey. People on the Move” running at the Museum (Pireos Street Building) from 19-29 May.

The speakers at the press conference were:

– Irini Geroulanou, Administrative Board of the Benaki Museum
– Stelios Zavvos, Chairman of SolidarityNow
– Georgia Imsiridou, Photographic Archive of the Benaki Museum
– Dora Komninou, Curator, Director of Operations of SolidarityNow
– Yannis Behrakis, photojournalist, Head of Reuters Office in Greece

The exhibition opening took place at the Benaki Museum with great success, as more than 1,000 people attended.

8 renowned photographers/photojournalists from Greece, capturing with their lenses the Journey, the route all these people took in the past year as they had to flee their countries. The images trace their journey from Turkey to Greece, with final destination the borders, hoping to reach a safe haven in any country in Europe.

Only in 2015 more than 850,000 people arrived in our country. Greece is a transit and destination country for the people on the move, who aim to resettle in a European country. Migrants and refugees, legal and irregular, everyone, claiming their right to life. People, who in the last year, have been moving in masses in a timeless frame, with our country being in the background.

“Our goal with this exhibition is to reach a larger public in order to familiarize it with this harsh reality that every day thousands of people are called to confront, in order to reclaim their right to a life with security for themselves and their families. We aim to bring them in touch, through powerful images of world-renowned international photographers, with this unprecedented humanitarian crisis we are experiencing,” said Epaminondas Farmakis, Managing Director of SolidarityNow. And he continues: “It is for us a unique opportunity to highlight through the systematic efforts made by SolidarityNow, civil society and humanity to help the most vulnerable of our fellow people”.

Most of the photographs in the exhibition are images that flood our personal subconscious and our collective memory, linked directly to facts and refugee images and our own history. Displacement is a timeless emergency need transcending borders and nations. And will continue to be.
“In less than one year, what humanitarian workers and volunteers called ‘The Great March’ took more than a million people from the beaches of Lesvos, Chios, Kos and other Aegean islands to Germany and beyond, crossing the Balkan peninsula and ignoring, for a while, borders and barriers. Greece became a key space in that long march, and Greek people have been exceptional part of this most extraordinary event. This exhibition symbolizes the role played by the whole Hellenic nation, once again the unwilling witness of Europe’s failures and contradictions”, highlighted Jordi Vaquer, Regional Director for Europe, Open Society Foundations – Director, Open Society Initiative for Europe.

The 8 photographers participating in the exhibition are: Yannis Behrakis, Alkis Konstantinidis, Giorgos Moutafis, Angelos Tzortzinis, Enri Canaj, Myrto Papadopoulos, Orestis Seferoglou, Chloe Kritharas- Devienne. Eight photographers, eight different thoughts, concepts, truths and realities. Eight different perspectives that offer the power of composition and the creation of a Journey with life as a destination. Through their photographs, they create an ongoing conversation with the public, generating thoughts, awakening emotions and evoking memories.
Recently, Yannis Behrakis and Alkis Konstantinidis received the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in the category “Breaking News” for following and capturing the refugee / migration crisis.
There are three sections in the exhibition, which create the plot and narrate the journey chronologically, with a beginning, middle and end:

Entry: Lesvos, Kos, Samos, Chios, Oinousses
Stay: Detention centers, temporary shelters, camps, Victoria Square
Exit: Idomeni
The themes unfold in continuity, so that they there is a meaningful order.

In an attempt to portray the reality of the refugees’ stay, a real tent of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees that hosted hundreds of families in the past year on the island, will be installed in the exhibition space and will house the second part of the exhibition regarding their Stay.
The exhibition invites the public to travel through the photographs – testimonies of the photographers.
At the same time, the exhibition attempts to build a dialogue between renowned photographers and the public. This dialogue will bring together a number of different views on how people involved in one way or another in the refugee crisis offer their own truth and reality, in order to raise awareness, to awaken consciences or even to shock.
Beyond the photographic evidence, the exhibition includes sketches of children and adolescents- gathered by Dimitris Skleparis – who cannot respond and describe the reasons they were forced to leave their countries, so they draw their lives in Afghanistan and Syria, introducing the visitor to the journey of this exhibition. Children who grew up with violence in the background, who matured abruptly and who have been hurt forever both emotionally and in terms of expressing themselves.
Also, a documentary exhibition of Chronis Pechlivanidis will be screened, that invites the visitor to travel together with refugees from Syria to Rhodes, Kos, Tilos, Samos and Lesvos, unraveling the difficulties of this journey. A documentary where anguish and hope for life are mixed together in every shot. Also, in a specially designed area real sounds from rescue operations, will be played.

“These images are realistic and harsh. They are images that fill you mainly with sadness but that also give birth to hope, the joy of living, of arriving unharmed at the chosen destination. A puzzle of concepts and thoughts that put together the largest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War and reveal the power of images, which can transform the social consciousness of our world”, as stated by Dora Komninou, Curator of the exhibition. “In this narrative we have to consider our position and choose how to preserve the unique insurmountable human right, the right to life”.

Every picture is a perception of reality.
Every picture is a political statement.
Every picture is a Journey.