Coming home to Greece was always a relief after covering war and upheaval abroad. The danger and the adventure were over. A crisis at home feels very different.
After the country sank hopelessly into debt in late 2009, packing my gas mask and black snowboard helmet became part of my daily routine. Bystanders and protesters ran one way when the violence broke out at rallies, and I ran the other a surreal feeling. My colleagues, and myself included, breathed in tear gas, and were eventually hit by rocks, and riot police batons.
A country fell into poverty and rose in anger, as family, friends, and people all around me lost their jobs and forgot their dreams. Some scenes stuck with me: The destitute pushing each other in a food bank line, homeless people who should have been cared for in an institution, the sense of hatred among young and violent demonstrators.
The anger, inevitably, turned to the despair, as wages and pensions were cut, and cut again, and politicians were forced to break promises they could never have kept. It was everywhere, a few steps from the storefronts and cafes the suspended municipal worker who cried as I took her photograph and asked me how she would survive, the patient shaking as she waited for hours in the emergency room, and the elderly man in a cheap raincoat who picked vegetables from the street after an open-air market.
It's a feeling that's returned as the country lurches back into uncertainty and dreads that all the sacrifices made might be lost. Cornershop and party conversation, once about football matches, having a second child, or buying a new car, is still about what will happen to Greece. "Do you have a job?" I am always asked, followed by the same reply. "You are lucky.”
Nat Castañeda is an interdisciplinary visual artist based in Brooklyn, New York. A California native, Castañeda works primarily in video and collage, with an emphasis on tactile intimacy with her materials remaining an important aspect of all her projects. Common issues in Castañeda’s work are the conflating of iconography and pornography, the questioning of traditional gender binaries, and the role of technology within personal narratives. She received her MFA from the School of Visual Arts and has shown at venues such as El Museo del Barrio and Electronic Arts Intermix. In addition to her art practice, Castañeda currently works at The Associated Press where she leads a team that curates AP's online archive of historic and contemporary photojournalism. Castañeda’s photography has appeared in the New York Times,U.S. News & World Report and USA Today.