Greek to Me

by Niko J. Kallianiotis

I spent two years investigating the Greek-American diaspora in Astoria, New York, a diverse setting that was once the center of Hellenism in North America. As a young immigrant, I resented being in Astoria. I missed my friends, my extended family, my neighborhood in Athens. Everything seemed foreign to me, even the people who shared my own heritage. That environment, its diversity, and even the faces I encountered in the community only added to my sense of alienation. I remember seeking ways to escape, to move back to Greece.

These images, which I collected as part of a project I call “Bittersweet Apple,” reflect a fresh encounter with what survives of the Greek culture in Astoria, exploring the symbols and expressions of traditions one finds there. Being an immigrant induces a double perspective, one that encompasses both connection and distance. Expatriation was not a personal decision, but my current photographic language, which I hope captures something of that perspective, is.

A pedestrian crossing Hoyt Avenue next to the Astoria Boulevard subway stop.

A bust of Artemis decorates a wall on 33rd St. in Astoria.

Onlookers throw rice as a wedding party leaves St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church.

Panagiotis and Efi Papageorgiou in front of their store, Athens Video, on 31st St.

A view of Crescent Street.

At his barbershop on 29th St., Nikos Zigouris plays the bouzouki and waits for customers.

A baptism at St. Demetrios Church.

Athens Cafe in 2012. The cafe, since closed, was a popular destination for Greek cuisine and political conversations.

Children dance to traditional Greek music during the annual celebration commemorating the Greek Revolution of 1821.

A goldfish won at the annual Greek Festival.

Anthi Aggelou performs at Censo Lounge, a club popular among Astoria’s Greek community.

Children splash around in an inflatable pool during a Fourth of July block party.

A gyro stand along 31st St.

After dusting off a carpet, a woman returns to her apartment on 33rd St.

The Robert F. Kennedy Bridge as framed from the Astoria Boulevard subway stop.

Ourania Stamatis in her Astoria home, as photographed in 2012 at 101 years old.

A customer at Astoria’s Neptune Diner.

Niko J. Kallianiotis is an educator and photographer. He started his career as a newspaper photographer, first as a freelancer at The Times Leader, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and then as a staff photographer at The Coshocton Tribune in Coshocton, Ohio and The Watertown Daily Times in Watertown, New York. He is currently an assistant professor of photography at Marywood University and an adjunct assistant professor at Drexel University. He is also a contributing photographer for the New York Times.

Also in this issue

The Forgotten History of the Owl’s Head

Finding the story of Brooklyn in the ups and downs of a small park in Bay Ridge. By Henry Stewart

Q&A: Ned Berke of Sheepshead Bites

It took a jaunt as a reporter in South America to convince the local blogger to focus his attention closer to home. Interview by Chris Crowley