Caesura – the duration of a sigh, photo essay by Demetris Koilalous
Caesura is a collection of photographs about the transitory state of those people who entered Greece, after crossing the Aegean Sea –the infamous “death passage”- on their way from their homelands in Asia and Africa to the land of promise and hope, Europe.
Typically Caesura manifests the brief silent pause in the middle of a poetic verse or a musical phrase, used in this context as a metaphor for a silent break amid two periods of loud ‘activity’ in one’s violent and distressed narrative.
The characters in Caesura appear to have a temporary identity as they pose for the camera in a frame of transition and uncertainty. They convey an ambiguous feeling of restlessness and tranquility, a sense of intemporality and durability as if they have existed beyond time. They stand still in an in-between psychological state, on the verge of name and anonymity, almost suspending in space between two discontinuous moments.
The surrounding environment is often uncertain and confusing, undisclosed – without distinct landmarks – nevertheless it is an actual and relevant topographic context. It is a space “amidst”, caught in a transitory time “in-between” – an archetypical condition where – as Wittgenstein puts it – life happens “outside space and time”.
Life is thus taking place in an allegoric and literary “Waste Land” drawing images from T. S. Eliot’s poetic landscapes “under the brown fog of a winter dawn”, where “sighs short and infrequent” are exhaled.
The characters in Caesura are not a nameless mass, people among people. They have distinct identities and names, recognizable faces which unveil courage, determination and stamina, yet they are plunged into the melancholy of the temporary landscape in which they were caught: an intemporal space characterized by the gloominess of the border scenery. Remote and detached from the crowd, they place themselves – often unconsciously – in the centre of the narrative.
Caesura is a collection of such personal narratives and private moments of persons longing to evince their new status – as an element of their freedom – reminiscent of the early Italian and Greek migrants to America who took photographs and sent them to their relatives – back home – in order to declare their successful landing in the actual and symbolic new world and the adoption of a new identity.
For the viewer, there is almost a categorical impression that these characters travel anonymously in a mass exodus (habitually named refugees and migrants) – just like a swarm of people who escape from a building, which is on fire. Nevertheless, in reality they have names, families and friends, who do recognize them; they are not just nameless faces.
My photographs attempt to raise questions about the human condition and identity; ultimately to raise questions about ourselves as viewers.
“Caesura” does not provide answers, as it hardly refers to the historic reality, but it rather addresses the fundamental elements of identity through appearance, memory and self-determination. (Demetris Koilalous)