Easter in Kefalonia

For us mediterraneans, fasting is usually a celebration but most of the time it’s a bad idea, as bad as my partner asking me to detox for a week. This time I’m exaggerating, this wasn’t one of those Old City Ramadan occasions,  where the smell of fresh bread and pickled stuff and stuffed pickles assaults you from one corner to another throughout Bab-huta. In Greece, these few “fasting days”  were by the sea, on one iconic island, surrounded by amazing people. By default you can eat and drink all you want just don’t fuck with any of the sheep / lamb things.

One of my best friends Katia Stefanatou, invited us to her world to spend Easter with her family who come from that island (Kefalonia), generation after generation. Her sweet loving golden father, Agamemnon, who, after trying out his own homemade wine and switching unknowingly to vinegar, we called “Agi”. It wasn’t my fault by the way, I took a bullet for that mix (wine/vinegar), not knowing that everything he produces is stored in the exact same plastic bottle.

Usual me, craving meat even though I probably should have embraced vegetarianism a few moons ago, not that I care more than you about the planet but since I never feel the same after eating it (prosciutto doesn’t count). For 2 days I lived spotting chickens, sheep and more strolling around me but we had to wait – and to be honest that night when lent was over, it was epic! The things we share culturally, (Greeks and Palestinians) delicious and disgusting ,was all there, from the stomach of the sheep kind of soup to the family vibes and occasional vulgarity.

That night with our stomachs filled to the top of our necks, mumbling greek like a bouzouki star with all ages of Katia’s family “we are talking between 20 to 100”, we went out for the Easter parade, I thought it would be similar to what I lived in the Old City of Jerusalem, silly me, it was magical even with all the kids placed like pawns and the gold wearing grumpy priests, it was fun, dark, and we will do it again if we can.

The next day, fighting a hangover and indigestion, we headed to a huge property the family owns, where the lamb was rolling with the times since morning and overwhelming amounts of rosemary were burning, the smell was just perfect.

I leave you with some photos taken during that visit and I would like to dedicate this to two amazing ladies – Aggeliki Stefanatou and Amalia Kyraggelou – best friends who have shared a lifetime together. The latter of whom passed away shortly after our visit at the ripe age of 94. Smoking her last cigarette, having lived a fully and happy life.  If we could all be so lucky…

 

In Irbil

The end of 2016 was my first encounter with a part of the world that was always far away, not geographically but borders and labels and all. Stateless with an Israeli travel document, I’ve never even met people from my own region.

Working with the United Nations offered me that experience when I got an assignment to teach photography for some amazing communications officers from all over Iraq, it was my first time teaching something I love so much in a context I have never been a part of before. 

There I was, flying across the Atlantic last minute to my brother’s wedding in Jerusalem for one night then waking up in Istanbul en route to Irbil, on an almost empty plane with an extremely young flight crew “ like with pimples covering their faces “  Suddenly, I notice this man smiling and looking so angelic, regardless of his muscles spilling outside the frame of the photo I had in mind. One minute after, I approached him and tried to get my photo but our language skills didn’t help at that moment at all and I might have oversold myself since the only expression I could read of him was “ you are such a dick”.  I guess I  didn’t give him a chance to shine. Shortly after landing he was escorted  before “all of us” (me and another 7 passengers). Naturally I confused everyone at passport control, travel documents never seem to make sense to them. Finally, they let me out and I see it, “Nezar Ghazali, winner of the international bodybuilding championship in Greece” all caps. I get my chance to photograph him and I move on to what I was brought here to do.     

Part of the workshop was conducting field visits where all these photos were taken – of Syrian refugees and other internally displaced people around the time the fight with ISIS was at its peak. Naturally I get food poisoning and end up throwing up behind peoples tents, just adding more to their misery.

The trust with people when they smile for you or your camera is so intense and never easy to grasp. You think you are used to that, from experience photographing refugees for the last years. One thing I’ve learned though is that smile doesn’t always mean trust,  the truth is that you will leave them after taking these shots, most of the time people are just too exhausted to argue so they smile, especially the young ones.  

Irbil, December 2016
©Alaa Ghosheh

Hours in Istanbul

Shots taken around the center of the old city in Istanbul. The “Walled City” is the oldest part of Istanbul, street life and daily tasks merge together against the backdrop of a bustling metropolis.

©Alaa Ghosheh 2018