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Society

George Tatakis & “Greece’s Unseen Corners” Featured in New York Times

NEW YORK – Photographer George Tatakis explores “Greece’s Unseen Corners” in an article published in the New York Times on June 14. The photographs and text by Tatakis document the local customs and traditional clothing of various locations in Greece. 

“In 2016, drawn by the smell of Easter cookies, I ventured into a small bakery in the village of Olympos, on the Greek island of Karpathos,” Tatakis wrote in the Times article, adding that “the owner, a woman named Kalliope, was going about her work while wearing what looked to me like a traditional costume.” 

“After chatting for a minute or two, I asked if she was dressed this way because it was Easter,” Tatakis wrote, to which the woman replied: “What do you mean? These are my clothes. You are the one who is dressed in a European costume,” the Times reported.

“Despite having grown up in Athens and traveled extensively throughout Greece, I had never before come across a community in which people wore such traditional clothes in their day-to-day lives,” Tatakis wrote, noting that “yet, far from seeming performative, Kalliope’s clothes looked intrinsic to her village — much more so, as she suggested, than the clothes I wore when I greeted her,” the Times reported.

“After my encounter in Olympos, I decided to make a project of exploring the unseen corners of my country — to meet the people, learn about their traditional practices, and make images along the way that could offer a window into Greek culture for others to peer through,” Tatakis wrote, adding that “four and a half years later, on a sunny Sunday morning, I found myself in the village of Nea Vyssa, in Greece’s extreme northeastern corner, where I had arranged a two-day photography session,” the Times reported.

Tatakis photographed the women of the village in their traditional clothing and in various locations in the village which were either abandoned or “on the brink of being abandoned,” usually featuring traditional architecture, “without any modern additions or changes,” the Times reported.

“To me, photography is about much more than just the images themselves,” Tatakis wrote in the Times, noting his “passion for rural Greece,” and how he enjoys exploring the concept of hospitality- “a central virtue that can be traced back to ancient Greece.”

“Nikos Kazantzakis, a celebrated Greek writer, describes in his fictionalized autobiography, Report to Greco, how his grandfather would go out at nights, strolling around the dark alleys of Crete, lantern in hand, to seek for people wandering the streets who had nowhere to spend the night,” Tatakis wrote, adding that “he would bring them to his home, feed them and offer them a place to sleep,” the Times reported.

Tatakis mentions experiencing “several manifestations of this hospitality on my own journeys,” the Times reported, noting how Tatakis for the past five years has “visited Tetralofo, a small village of around 300 people in northern Greece, to document the traditional New Year’s celebrations known as Kotsamania, or Momoeria.”

“Kotsamania is a theatrical ritual performed each Christmas by local men who visit homes to wish prosperity, abundance and happiness for the year to come,” Tatakis wrote in the Times, adding that “the whole community takes part in the celebrations, which involve street theater, dancing and the playing of traditional instruments.”

“On one occasion in Tetralofo, while I was being hosted at the cultural club, residents would arrive each day to bring me home-cooked meals,” Tatakis wrote in the Times, noting that “others — people I’d never met — offered to host me in their houses. I felt right at home.”

“Many traditional events throughout Greece are revivals of old customs, performed to help the local economy by drawing tourists and attention,” Tatakis continued in the Times, adding that “often such events feel kitsch and, in a way, inauthentic.”

The Kotsamania is among the events which “have survived in unadulterated forms and are performed as genuine, integral parts of a community,” Tatakis noted, pointing out that “ultimately, my work attempts to highlight such customs: to present vivid, complex depictions of fading traditions, and to help us avoid the pitfalls of monotony in our modern lives.”

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