I arrived in Athens on May 4, 2010, in the midst of violent street protests stemming from Greece’s developing financial crisis. That same day, a Molotov cocktail took the lives of three employees at a downtown bank. Among the victims was Angeliki Papathanasopoulou, recently married and four months pregnant, which turned her into a martyr for some and a symbol of Greece’s lost innocence.
A month later, a more familiar Greek symbol, the Acropolis, gained further prominence. Its showpiece temple, the Parthenon, was temporarily set free of scaffolding that had covered it since a reconstruction project began in 1983. First built in honour of the city’s guardian, Athena, in 438 BC, it stands today through the aid of modern engineering; titanium rods inserted through its columns, sculptures replaced with replicas, empty gaps filled with new stone.
It was in the context of these two events that I photographed Athens, reflecting on the contradictions and parallels between the city’s past and present: the romantic mythologies surrounding Athena of old set against the inconvenient realities of today.
While photographing Athens, I saw a city in decline, not only economically and politically, but perhaps spiritually as well. As I witnessed Greeks struggling with these challenges, I wanted to show that the face of Athens is found, not within the pervasive symbols of its past, but in alternate imagery suggestive of a more disorderly time.