PHOTO REPORT: In the streets of Greece on the eve of the referendum, by Chloé Kritharas Devienne
26-year-old Franco-Greek photojournalist Chloé Kritharas Devienne has spent the past few years living in Athens. She photographed her city in the week leading up to the referendum on July 5.
“Generally speaking, photographers remain neutral about their political opinions. Obviously, as a Greek in favour of the ‘No’ vote, I have a certain take on events. I don’t despise the people on the ‘Yes’ side. I respect other people’s decisions. Then again, most of the people who voted ‘Yes’ are people who only think about their money, which does disgust me a little bit, to be honest (she laughs).“
“The first photo, the one with the handcuffs, is of a man holding up a placard which reads “I have sex every day, Europe is fucking me” in front of the Finance Ministry on July 3″. The next ones were taken a few days earlier, on June 29. “That was the first big pro-‘No’, anti-referendum demonstration.”
“This woman looks distraught. It seems as if a ‘No’ vote is her only hope.” Standing in front of the Greek flag, she is holding up a placard with the word ‘No’ written on it in Greek (‘oxi’), German and English.
“The demonstration took place in front of the parliament building in Syntagma Square, right in the centre of Athens. There were 17,000 people there that day:
“There was a lot of hope in people’s eyes, no annoyance. They really felt that voting ‘No’ was the solution. It was very moving.”
“This white uniform is the traditional uniform of the Greek military. Every half an hour, there is a parade in front of the Parliament. They cross, split up, then return to their positions.”
Retired Greeks lining up outside the banks to pick up their pensions on July 3: “For a few days, they were able to come and take out 150 euros instead of 50. Everyone took a ticket and waited in line. It was total chaos. There was a least a half-hour wait just to get into the bank.”
A building in the centre of Athens.
The ‘Yes’ campaigners at their rally on June 30.
“There was a very violent atmosphere. People were furiously shouting ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’. The President of the Greek Parliament is part of the Tsipras government, and they were screaming, ‘You dirty whore, we’re going to hang you’. At one point they saw her and rushed onto the square, towards the entrance to the Parliament, but the police stopped them.”
“For most of the ‘Yes’ supporters, this was perhaps the second time in their lives they had gone out and demonstrated. They said so themselves. They are ship owners, heads of big businesses. They are people with money. They are not the kind of people you normally see take to the streets.”
“You never see any Louis Vuitton at protests in Greece. Never. Because people who take part in demonstrations are normally destitute. That wasn’t the case here. There were people of all ages… maybe not quite so many young people as on the ‘No’ side. But most of them were wearing expensive, brand-name shirts and luxury accessories…”
Another picture of the ‘Yes’ demonstration. The atmosphere is tense. “There were 22,000 – 23,000 people there – more than at the ‘No’ rally.”
“This man said to me: ‘I worked for 43 years. It’s not right that I have to queue up for 20 minutes to get 50 euros at my age. What can I do with 50 euros a day?’. He says this at a time when Greece is dying, when three quarters of the population have no money in the bank, when kids are passing out because their families can’t feed them properly, when more and more elderly people are spending entire days begging on the streets, and when the real problem is not having to wait for 20 minutes to withdraw 50 euros, but finding a way of surviving.”
“The graffiti on this building shows an old man. He is holding a euro in his hand, and there is blood coming out of it.”
A policeman waiting for the start of the ‘No’ rally on July 3.
“On Friday, July 3, there was an enormous pro-‘No’ demonstration before the vote on Sunday 5. Some said there were 150,000 people there; others, 50,000. In any case, it was packed. There was a great atmosphere.”
“Because the demonstrations took place at different times, there weren’t any major problems between ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ supporters.”
“On the evening of the ‘No’ rally, there was a concert. People were singing in unison. They had tears in their eyes.”
Alexis Tsipras, during his speech at the rally. “He was very emotional.” Chloé translates a passage from his speech:
“We are free and we are breathing the air of freedom. Whatever happens, we shall be winners. Greece has won, democracy has won, blackmails and threats have been defeated.”
“This was a retired man I interviewed. He was crying. He has 4 children in their thirties, who have children themselves. He is feeding his entire family with just his pension. He told me the only hope was Tsipras and a ‘No’ vote.”
Two photos taken at the same time, at the end of the speech:
“Tsipras raised his hand, and everyone raised their hands with him. People were already totally confident that the ‘Noes’ would have it.”
“The Greek media spread pro-‘Yes’, anti-‘No’ propaganda for a week. This vote was also a fight against their lies.”
“This last photo was taken the day the ‘No’ vote won.” People gathered in the centre of Athens.
“It was almost more of a celebration of the victory over the media than of the victory of the ‘No’ vote, because voting ‘No’ means there will be some very tough times ahead. People were very happy, but in a restrained way.”
The next day, Chloé didn’t take any photos. If she could have done so, what would she have taken? “I would have taken pictures of the Greek calm. Greek people carrying on with their lives as normal, with an atmosphere of hope and joy – sure – but without overdoing it.”