Yesterday I listened to a heart-wrenching presentation from Dimitrios Bouras about one of his projects entitled “Accusing the Victims of being the Perpetrators.” This project focuses on the victims of the Greek financial crisis- the homeless- and primarily their turn toward drug usage, prostitution and the subsequent rise of HIV. He has chosen to give these people what so many don’t- someone to listen and acknowledge their presence; he gives them an “ear,” as he put it.
However, Bouras is not simply giving these people an ear. He is also giving them a voice. For a long time, I had little respect for photojournalists who choose to photograph the homeless or people suffering, because I didn’t understand why they weren’t doing something more to help those they photographed. Bouras even said himself that photojournalists are “outsiders.” When he began his presentation, I could only think to myself, “why is he taking pictures? Why isn’t he helping? A photograph isn’t going to make this person’s life better.” As he went on, however, I changed my mind completely. I have been living in Greece for a few months now, and I know firsthand how easy it is to completely ignore a person sitting on a corner or walking down the street asking for coins. It is so easy to forget about them and go back to the safety of my apartment or to enjoy a meal with friends. The problem is much greater than what one person can solve, especially since so many people in Greece refuse to acknowledge the problem altogether.
While sitting through his presentation, I mainly felt guilt, even though Greece is not my country and even though this is not “my” problem. So often we forget how lucky we are. And so often we place blame on those less fortunate for being in their situation. But these people, just as the title of Bouras’ project suggests, are not the cause, but the result of the current turmoil in Greece. It is difficult for me to sit here and type this on my laptop, in the comfort of my school library after seeing his work. I can only imagine how hard it is for him to separate himself from this, to be content going back to his home and his luxuries after devoting his life (in some cases sacrificing his safety in the process) to these people who literally have nothing.
I don’t know what will come of his work, or if he expects anything to come of it. But after seeing his photography, after coming face to face with what has always been there but has been overwhelmingly ignored or forgotten, it is hard to pretend everything is okay.
More at http://dimitriosbouras.com/accusing-the-victims-of-being-the-perpet