My biggest fear as a child was the outbreak of a fire in our house. At night, I would mentally map out an escape route and even went so far as to have a small bag, readily packed, next to my bed. Just in case.
This photographic work in progress is about the seaside town of Mati, 40 km east of Athens, about the people that did lose everything, even their loved ones during the wildfire of July 23rd 2018.
On this very day, with extremely fierce winds blowing towards the sea, a small fire that started behind the mountaintop quickly developed into a wall of flames, which devoured first the houses and trees in the hills of Mati, and then worked its way across the main road towards the beach, where most of the town’s houses were located. People were completely unprepared and there was no warning.
Those who could get away from their properties in time rushed towards the water to save themselves only to find that the fire followed them right up to the beach. Many hundreds had to keep swimming for hours before being rescued.
Over 100 women, children and men died. Disoriented by the dense smoke, or without direct access to the shore because of steep cliffs, they did not make it into the sea in time. Some are still missing. Over 1000 houses in Mati have been destroyed and given the Greeks’ worrying financial situation, those who survived but lost everything are facing a difficult future.
I feel there are too many stories to be forgotten. There’s Teresa, an artist who lives in the hills of Mati and managed to drive to safety with her partner and dog. Coming back afterwards, the area was so unrecognizable that she drove past the house, which miraculously still stood, but the trees and plants were gone. So were electricity, water, windows and clean air and the house was uninhabitable for two months. And Kathy, whose house stood atop a cliff overlooking the ‚red beach‘ where more than 20 people lost their lives. The night before the fire while sitting on their veranda, she had said to her husband ‚We are so lucky to be living here, we‘re just like a queen and king. I love this place!‘ Kathy‘s house had been completely destroyed.
‚but i love this place‘ not only looks at the aftermath directly, but includes my own interpretations of the trauma that the wildfire has left us with. Thus I created pieces of work showing aerial views of Mati, which I have then transformed into something else and photographed: a burning paper boat, a burned area of land highlighted with thread, 100 needles pinned to a map representing the lives lost.