Switzerland (“Helvetia” in Greek) is one of the richest countries in the world. Nea Helvetia (i.e. New Switzerland) in West Attica, Greece is, on the contrary, swept by pollution, poverty and neglect. Not long ago, the industrial zone of the Thriasian Plain - Elefsina, Mandra, Aspropyrgos - was employing a working class pouring in from different parts of the country. For the past years, this area has been experiencing the rapid disintegration of a once prosperous world. People used to migrate here to find a job; now, in great crisis, massive unemployment, and deindustrialization, people are searching for means to survive. A place of major archaeological importance – ancient site of the Elefsinian Mysteries – has become “infected”, collecting - literally and metaphorically – a country’s waste and debris.
I began visiting these neighborhoods, thanks to my friend Nikos. I wanted to photograph his neighborhood, his environment. As I felt the need to understand his story better, I was trying to somehow become a part of his everyday reality. Nikos has lived there all his life; and he still lives there, trying to make ends meet. With him and other friends we would meet once in a while, pay visits to each other’s houses, take strolls together, or drink a beer. They couldn’t come to Athens, because they didn’t have money for gas. Most of them unemployed, they found occasional jobs here and there, that wouldn’t last long. What would last ware their bonds with the local community, which has been their only support system.
Nea Helvetia is situated at the borders between the areas of Elefsina and Mandra. It consists of big blocks of industrial residences. The violent disconnection of Nea Helvetia’s community from the global production machine automatically sends it to the fringe, leads it to inevitable transgression and places it in a limbo state before disaster. Its people are silently suffering the reverberations of a big fall. The images depict their environment: the roofscapes of their homes in distant, relative, historical perspective: the interiors with framed family pictures and posters –dreams on a wall– the empty backyards, the covered cars, the wastelands. They seem to have each other, united in an inadvertently common fate, victimized by an abrupt exclusion from the productive world: a world that, for most of us, tends to shrink all the more.