Jörg Brüggemann is a German freelance photographer who was commissioned by Süddeutsche Zeitung in 2015 to photograph the arrivals of refugees in Kos, Greece.
What he found was a surreal world, full of contradictions and uncomfortable juxtapositions. Tourists sunbathing on the beach were paired with people on flimsy dinghies, desperately paddling away from misery and war to find safety on that same beach. Flotation devices that normally symbolize fun-in-the-sun suddenly had a heavier meaning.
We all know that Greece heavily relies on the tourism industry, and the arrivals of refugees from Turkey has changed the face of tourism on the Greek Islands. In the past, people wanted to escape heavy realities on their island vacations, now people come to assist the new arrivals of people needing asylum.
However, in Brüggemann’s story, there were people who had already booked their vacation to Kos in 2015 couldn’t get a return on their reservations, so they decided to continue with their original plans.
Brüggemann explains, “the thing with the tourists is, I guess a lot of them were actually already considering canceling their holiday because Kos was so big on the news, but a refugee crisis is not like a nature catastrophe — a reason to cancel your holiday and get your money back. So a lot of people stayed with their booked holiday. They obviously knew what was going on — at least the ones that we met when we went there.”
Brüggemann wanted to bring another edge to the story that was already facing fatigue in the press. He talks about why he wanted to show this juxtaposition of relaxing tourists and people arriving on dinghies, “getting the idea of the tourist into that series, was for me, in that sense important because it makes it possible to relate to that whole story again. It drags you in because you could be that tourist. You could be these middle class people that go to Greece to have their holiday. I could be that. And all of a sudden you feel related to that story and you see how they react to what they see on that island. And I feel that gets a lot more personal. Well I hope it gets a lot more personal through that. And that was probably the one thing that was most important to me.”
Read the full article at: www.pri.org