Photography by Niko J. Kallianiotis
For “Bittersweet Apple”, I investigated the Greek-American Diaspora in Astoria, New York. This is a diverse setting that was once the center of Hellenism in North America. As a youngster, I resented being in Astoria and during my first visit twenty-five-years ago, I often tried to find ways to escape and move back to Greece. Everything seemed foreign to me, even the people who shared my own heritage. I missed my friends, my extended family, my neighborhood in Athens, everything. What I expected to be familiar during my first visit to the States was actually quite unfamiliar, regardless of the reminders of Greek culture that the area offered. That environment, its diversity, even the faces I encountered in the community, only added to my sense of alienation. There were Greeks here, but they were not “my” Greeks. The images from this project reflect a fresh encounter with what survives of the Greek culture in Astoria, explores the symbols and cultural traditions, and the mingling of memories and an evolved perspective.
The duality of my life’s trajectory makes my visual identity a fluid one. My formative years were spent in Greece, but for all of my adulthood I’ve lived in the United States. Because of my hybrid background I view the world and my surrounding environs from two different perspectives, both culturally and socially. This circumstance has heightened my sensibilities and created an uncertain identity crisis. My cultural and social values have been challenged; feelings of alienations instigated the desire to attempt and recapture and reevaluate my identity. Expatriation was not a personal decision, but my current photographic language is.