Photographers' Blog

Surviving rather than living

By Cathal McNaughton

“My wife thinks I don’t do enough but I’m doing everything I can. I work day and night. I’m trying to work my way out of this,” olive farmer Dimitris Stamatakos told me as he took a break from stacking wood at his small-holding in the village of Krokeae in the Peloponnese area of Greece.

During the boom years Dimitris, 36, made a comfortable living from the 1,700 olive trees on his seven acres of land – today, due to rising costs and higher taxes, his olive crop yields just 50 per cent of what it once did and to make ends meet he toils endlessly at odd jobs.

Selling firewood, hiring out his tractor and even hiring himself out as a laborer to his neighbors are just a few of the ways he makes the extra euros he needs to support his wife Voula and their two young boys, three-year-old Christopher and one-year-old Elias.

Dimitris’ work ethic is matched only by his hospitality. He insisted I join him for a glass of Tsipouro – the potent local brandy – which he served up with his home grown olives as he told me how he is trying to keep his head above water.

He was matter-of-fact as he told me of the hard labor and thriftiness that have become part of his everyday life – to survive the recession farmers like Dimitris have been forced to adopt a back-to-basics attitude that allows for no luxuries and leaves no stone unturned in the pursuit of an extra few euros, often working 14 hour days scratching out a living doing whatever he has to do to bring money into his home.

Europe’s quiet crisis

In 2011, the life of Portuguese citizens changed.

Changes that appear to be hidden but are smoothly spreading beneath our toes. We feel them, we breathe them, but we don’t obviously see them.

Throughout 2011 we worked to gain a front row seat to the changes.

Is it a spring fog or an autumn drizzle? Sometimes in life things change so fast and dramatically but the skyline will still brighten with the same sunrise or sunshine.

Where did it start? The U.S.? Iceland? Ireland? Greece?

Through interviews, Fado songs and Portuguese guitar music, we present our view of Portugal’s fight to understand themselves and the global crisis as well as to change and move forward.

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