Ithacas, a photographic journey
: exile and displacement arising from the Greek crisis

  • Grigoris Digkas

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The economic crisis in Greece, that became an acute reality in 2010, revealed the preexisting cultural crisis in the country and created the need to redefine the Greek identity. This practice-based research explores this particular need through the conditions of immigration to European metropolises, repatriation from abroad and internal migration to Greek islands that are incited by the crisis, and are part of the many consequences of the crisis. The aim is to create a photographic narrative on the subject with an approach embedded within it that emphasises the need to recreate both Greek identity and Greek photography, as the latter was never incorporated into a Greek cultural context but rather developed as an imitation of European and North-American photographic trends.

The project draws upon original visual and academic research to construct a photographic narrative. The process of image making works as a methodological tool that uses morphological, aesthetic, and narrative elements from the genres of subjective documentary and landscape photography and develops in parallel with the theoretical research on the areas of (i) displacement and exile, (ii) Greek culture and aesthetics and (iii) Greek landscape photography. To achieve a photographic approach that can be described as Greek, three basic methods are used; (i) the reappropriation of the myth of Odysseus as a representational and symbolic structure of the voyage of contemporary Greek migrants towards their own Ithacas, (ii) the appliance of the Neohellenic principle of entopia in image making as a code of symbolism, and (iii) the use of symbolic Greek landscape images to re-create/restore a collective memory.

The project uses the mythological ten-year journey on the sea of Odysseus towards his home and redirects it to represent the migratory flows of Greek neo migrants. The story is seen from the perspective of Odysseus, who becomes the narrator that experiences displacement and tries to define his/her identity in relation to the borders of each place he/she resides. The narrative, that is presented as four books in a slipcase, consists of two main types of images, colour landscapes and black-and-white instant images. The first explore the concept of the border and build the inner landscape of the narrator, based on theoretical research on displacement and exile and the code of symbolism inspired by Neohellenism. The latter refer to archive images and use representations of the Greek landscape to explore cultural memory.

In this thesis, the final outcome is analysed in a Greek cultural context and it is argued that just as the redefinition of Greek identity is possible by redefining the traditional values of Greek culture, the search for the new Greek photographic identity can be achieved by studying the principles of Greek culture and applying them info photography.
Date of AwardFeb 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorAnna Fox (Supervisor)

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