For Bittersweet Apple I spent two years investigating the Greek-American diaspora in Astoria, New York, reflecting on memories from my personal experience with the neighborhood twenty years ago. In the last two decades, the neighborhood that once was the center of Hellenism in North America has become even more diversified. As a youngster, I resented being in Astoria and New York in general. During my first visit twenty-five years ago I often tried to find ways to escape and move back to Greece, which eventually I managed to do. Everything at that time seemed foreign to me, even the people who shared my own heritage. I missed my friends, my extended family, my neighborhood in Athens, everything. Looking back on that mindset I find it comical; what kid does not want to live in New York City? Well, I didn’t, but after two decades I returned back to the area I once tried to escape from.
What I expected to be familiar during my first visit to the States was actually quite unfamiliar, regardless of the reminders of Greek culture that the area offered. That environment, its diversity, even the faces I encountered in the community, only added to my sense of alienation. There were Greeks here but they were not “my” Greeks. These photographs reflect a fresh encounter with what survives of the Greek culture in Astoria. Places such as the cafe depicted in my collection (which is no longer a Greek hangout) explore the symbols and cultural traditions, but it is mostly a reflection of my own feelings and response to the place; an inner evaluation of the past and present. I have also decided to return and continue working in the area for an upcoming book.
By Niko J Kallianiotis