Book Review: CAESURA, the Duration of a Sigh
By Kevin Quinitchett
“They become protagonists in an epic drama of life and death” says author Bill Kouwenhoven, as he characterizes the Iraqi refugees photographed by Demetris Koilalous in the newest release from Kehrer Verlag. ‘Caesura: the Duration of a Sigh’ consists of pictures taken of Iraqi refugees on their journey to Europe as they cross the Aegean Sea. Although a lot of the photographs are as bleak as the subject matter sounds, they have a positive message behind them. These refugees made it safely through their journey.
Throughout the book, Koilalous photographs many parts of the journey that these refugees embarked on. Koilalous’s first series of pictures are arresting; so much could be asked of what’s taking place. One of the pictures depicts a group of refugees huddled around one single smartphone. What could they be looking at? Breaking news? Something regarding their migration? Did they bring a charger? If so, where would they plug it? Each member of the group also has a small backpack or some form of small luggage. “How can one fit an entire life into such a tiny bag?” Koilalous wondered. “The first thing that struck me was the bareness and the solitude of the person who runs away alone, without the confidence of their personal belongings - without even the security of one’s own shoes - a common nightmare that haunted my childhood dreams.”
The next series of images was what brought the idea of the title of the book, Caesura. A caesura is Greek for a break or interruption in the middle of a sentence. Koilalous is referring to the refugees’ passage through the Aegean Sea, nicknamed the ‘Infamous Death Passage.’ The Aegean Sea had earned the nickname due to the many refugees who had met their end in it.
The ‘caesura’ that takes place within the group of refugees happens just before they cross the Aegean Sea. According to Koilalous, the refugee group was in the midst of conversation until all of a sudden, they went very quiet. They stayed like that for a long time until they were done navigating the ‘Infamous Death Passage.’ After the group successfully navigated the Aegean Sea and made it out alive, they all let out a long sigh of relief. This is what Koilalous had photographed; the duration of that sigh. The images depicts everyone calm, as if they were hoping and waiting. With a mix of black and white, and color, the emotions are clear. The viewer can almost feel the despair and hope emanating from the people in Koilalous’ pictures.
Caesura: the Duration of a Sigh is a journey in pictures of the reality that refugees face when leaving their country due to less than favorable conditions. Through the numerous snapshots of anguish, and of hope, depicting this group of fugitives, the message is apparent: this could have been you.