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Published Dec 18, 2015

The Old Men of the Sea

A photo essay

PAROS, Greece

In Europe, there are too many fishermen and not enough fish. To prevent overfishing, nations began a policy of boat destruction.

Greece has more fishing boats than any other country in the European Union, mostly because there are so many single boat owners, solitary men who spend their days at sea. Following European policy, the Greek government offered money to fishermen who would turn in their fishing licenses and destroy their boats. Thousands have been destroyed.

I was always fascinated by the traditional, wooden, Greek fishing boats. In 2010, I first traveled to Paros, a small island in the Aegean Sea, to photograph these vessels and their owners as an art project. When I returned in 2013, half the boats I photographed three years earlier had been destroyed, abandoned or sold to tourists. Someday, the ones that remain will be gone, too. Young Greeks don’t want to become fishermen. A craft that sustained this country for thousands of years will die this century.

In October 2014, I returned to Paros with a camera crew. We documented the life and work of the fishermen and of the only remaining boat builder on the island. The resulting book, LUPIMARIS, is the essence of thousands of pictures and hours of interviews. When they are gone, I hope their stories will not be lost.


Kostantinos_Stratis copy

Fishermen have swallowed the bait of the E.U., and become fish themselves.

Kostantinos Stratis, b. 1961
Boat: Annaki

Annaki copy

Nikitas_Malamatenios

The work is difficult and the income less than before, so there is no attraction for a new generation. I have always been a fisherman — not out of necessity, but out of choice.

Nikitas Malamatenios, b. 1957
Boat: Panagia

Panagia

Alexandros_Kritsalis

The boat will show you that she is alive and loves life, just as humans do. She likes to live together with the people. Just as the dolphins play with her, she plays with us.

Alexandros Kritsalis, b. 1966
Boat: Coral

Coral

Petros_Aliprantis

Done. Over. That’s it! No one is learning this handicraft anymore.

Petros Aliprantis, b. 1953
Boat builder

Boatyard_01

Filippas_Tsantanis

My grandfather was a fisherman. They called him the Professor. I got his nickname. In my family there have been many fishermen and sailors. The individual branches of the family were distinguished by nicknames which are so old that no one knows when they originated. My grandfather often slept on his boat as he was always out there for days.

Filippas Tsantanis, b. 1944
Boat: Ilias Maria

Ilias_Maria

Petros_Delentas

At the age of 18, I became a sailor and traveled the world as a radio operator. Not because of romantic reasons, but at that time there was nothing to do here. My boat saved me. It was my anchor that brought me back to Paros and with which I was able to build my life. So that I could escape from a life as a sailor. This boat is my love.

Petros Delentas, b. 1942
Boat: Manolis

Manolis

Vaggelis_Parousis

If I do not see any sea, I do not live. If I had to stay in Athens, I would not even survive a whole 24 hours. I would go crazy.

Vaggelis Parousis, b. 1945
Boat: Meropi

Meropi

Christian Stemper is a photographer based in Vienna. His book about Greek fishermen is available at lupimaris.com.

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