A look at EYES OF TRUTH Photographer, Ioanna Ralli’s, Inside Out Experience

EYES OF TRUTH | An Athens Group Action Inside Out Project

It is magical when a project develops on its own, requiring of me only to be open and to work with what arises.  Given the fact that as a photographer, I have experience with taking portraits, I was invited to participate in the Inside Out Athens project and create ten portraits of children; five children from a privileged background and five from an unprivileged backrgound who would eventually be shown in pairs.

My good friends, Aris and Mary, have 3 girls. Katerina, the eldest, is 6 and the twins, Ioanna and Margarita, are 5. I have a good relationship with all three so it seemed like a very good starting point. Of course I wasn’t sure how my friends would feel about having their childrens portraits stuck on a wall in Athens so I asked.  A few days and a few clarifying questions later, Aris came back saying not only could I photograph their children, but I could also photograph their niece, Nasia, and nephew, Taso, who are 8 and 6 and live next door!

With much excitement on all sides, we arranged one afternoon to have a photography party in their yard. We set up a stool against a white wall, and amidst ice cream, laughter, bicycles, somersaults, ballet poses, playing with Asso the dog and strumming a guitar, all five took turns having their portraits taken. All in all, a wonderful time for everyone.

So the Greek part was done. How would I proceed with the children from unprivileged backgrounds?  Unfortunately I have no friends with children in that group of people. One evening in Yvonne’s garden, after many years, I reconnected with Eleni who had been my very best friend in late primary and early high school. I was overjoyed to see her and to once again be exposed to the incredible energy I remember and have always loved about her. What was also wonderful was to discover that she had evolved into a person who cared about the world at large and put her energy into making a positive difference. Among other things, she is involved with the Doctors of the World and her office is often visited by immigrants who need help in some way and who, in the process, have become her friends.  Upon hearing about the project, she offered to take me and Yvonne to the Doctors of the World building in Athens.  In that building, around seventy asylum seekers are given room and board as well as medical help for a year. Also, on the ground floor, there is an open polyclinic for anyone that does not have access to the Greek Medical System.

When we went, a majority of the dorms were taken by Afghani refugees. Mothers and children and a few men living in bunk beds in a family atmosphere.

Beautiful people with high cheekbones and slanted eyes. The idea in my head was that I would photograph children of different races. We now had two Afghani children, so we would need another three from different races. Eleni, Yvonne and I started thinking about where we would find the rest.

Then, when I went home that night, it occured to me that I didn’t need to look anywhere else. What I needed was right in front of my eyes. I would photograph five Afghani children as had been presented to me. It made total sense.

We made plans to have a photo session with all the children on the roof of the organization “Doctors of the World.”  We again chose a white wall and the children paraded in front of it to have their portrait taken. A great deal of help was provided by the adults so I was left to concentrate on taking the portraits. Amidst sign language, victory poses, laughter, explanations of who was related to who and strange sounds spoken in a foreign tongue, the pictures were taken. Again, a fun time for everyone involved.

It occurred to me that we had had two symmetrical events. A lovely photography party with a Greek family; four girls one boy and a lovely Afghani photography party with four boys and one girl!  And when I put an Afghani child next to a Greek child, they made beautiful pairs!