In June 2015, I was invited to take part in a photography residency by M55, a photography gallery in Athens, Greece. It was during this time that I was drawn to the stories of victims of hate crimes and began a long term photographic documentary project called ‘Hate Hurts’. I began capturing the lives of refugees in the Greek capital, in refugee centres, on the streets, in camps in Piraeus’s harbour and in the disused airport Ellinikon. My attention was quickly drawn to stories of unsolicited stop-and-search by the police, maltreatment along with physical, verbal and psychological attacks. I was also drawn to document how the political decision of containment adopted by most governments in Europe is negatively effecting the many refugees who come to Europe. They are forced to live at the margins of society, at times for years. Built on these layers of impenetrable bureaucracy, prejudice and racism combined with unscrupulous media reporting and the use of these for political gain, governments in Europe have created a fictitious ‘justification’ for ‘those unwanted’ to be kept in a state of geographical and psychological limbo.
It was with this in mind that I went to the port of Piraeus in Athens on a number of occasions. Even if, I had witness the refugees in the Greek capital’s awful conditions, the sea of humanity that meets your eyes at the port is a touching experience. The numbers, the chaos and despair is almost disorientating. Both inside and outside the terminals and along the shoreline, scenes of people in tents or on their UNHRC grey blankets repeat endlessly, and there are queues everywhere for food, a glass of water, donations, toilets or legal aid.
This photograph shows Melak, a refugee from Afrin in Syria. She escaped with her five children after her house was destroyed by bombing. When I met her, she had been in Piraeus for four weeks, and she was among the 'lucky few' to have a tent on a terrain patch outside Terminal 3. When I walked up to her, the very first thing that she did was to hug me. Melak invited me into her tent every time I was in Piraeus. Without running water and with just a piece of bread to feed herself and her five children each day, she kept a brave face. The shot was taken whilst she talked about her experiences in Syria. I used a Nikon D800 with a 28-135mm zoom lens.
See more work by Cinzia D'Ambrosi