Italian photographer Alessandro Penso was just chosen as TIME magazine’s pick for story of the year for his work on documenting refugees. In 2014, Alessandro’s work was featured in GroundTruth’s first emerging photographers series.
After buying an old camera at a street market in Rome, Alessandro left a career in clinical psychology and began studying photojournalism at the School of Photography and Film in Rome. In 2007 he won several awards, and last year he won first place for general news photography at the World Press Photo awards. He shot the winning image at a center for refugees in Bulgaria.
He launched a traveling exhibition of “The Lost Generation,” a photo essay of young people in Greece. The show tells the story of young migrants in Greece living in desperation and in deplorable conditions. Every day, this generation confronts the challenges of living in a country torn by an economic crisis. In past years, Greece has refused asylum requests more than any other country in Europe, and ultimately reached a 99.5 percent refusal rate in 2012.
Many migrants from the Middle East and Central Asia try to reach Europe through its eastern door, Greece. They see other European countries as their only hope for the future, and they attempt to leave Greece as soon as possible.
“There are more than one million immigrants living in Greece. A large number of them are barely over 18 – kids who have not been able to experience their youth,” Alessandro wrotes in a description of his exhibit. “They are left to fend for themselves without the least bit of assistance. Once they have crossed the border and dispersed into Greek territory, they are at the mercy of everything and everyone.”
In Patras, Greece, Afghan boys throw stones into the sea. They are waiting for evening, when they will try to sneak into the port, where they hope to illegally board a ship bound for Italy.
Mohamed (from Morocco) and his friends hide behind rocks at the port, waiting for the right moment to illegally board a ship to Italy.
Seventeen-year-old Ali, an Algerian refugee, lives in the old train station of Corinth, Greece. In Corinth, a small sea town on the Peloponnese, a group of North Africans who have established themselves in an old train station attempt to board boats out of Greece.
In Orestiada, Greece, a group of migrants spent the night in the railway station after crossing over the Turkish border.
These three teenagers from Afghanistan lived in an abandoned factory near the port of Patras. Patras, Greece is one of the main escape points from the country, due to the numerous cargo ships bound for Italy that dock in the port.
The Afghan teenagers living in an abandoned factory near the port of Patras, Greece.
A 17-year old migrant from Morocco slept in a street near the Gazi Area in Athens, Greece. It is estimated that in 2011, migrants made up approximately 10 percent of the population of Greece. Many migrants – in fact, the vast majority – are adolescents, or barely over 18 years old. They are young people who have not been able to experience their youth, are left to fend for themselves on the streets they live on.
This young Afghan lives with some friends in an abandoned house in Patras, Greece.
Mohammed from Algeria lives inside the old Columbia Records factory in Athens, Greece. Columbia was once a leader in the music industry, but the factory has been completely abandoned and teenagers of various nationalities took refuge there.
This is the view from the Columbia Records factory where illegal immigrants live, near the port of Patras, Greece.
In the Greek port city of Patras, a group of adolescents waited to attempt to illegally board trucks going to Italy. Patras is one of the main escape points from Greece.
A group of adolescents try to illegally board trucks going to Italy. One of the most common ways of illegally leaving Greece, attempted by teenage migrants most days, is jumping aboard the trucks, which will subsequently be loaded onto cargo ships for Italy. Over the years, many young people have lost their lives attempting this, while others have been stopped by the police. Only a very small percentage manages to succeed in this desperate attempt. Patras is one of the main escape points from Greece, due to the numerous cargo ships that dock in the port and are bound for Italy.
In Corinth, Greece, a group of North Africans was attacked by three locals. Mostafa El Mouzdahir, a 20-year old from Morocco, was hit by a car and sustained multiple injuries.
Mostafa El Mouzdahir, a 20-year old from Morocco, sustained multiple injuries after he was hit by a car. At the hospital he was asked by the police to leave the country in 15 days because of his illegal status.
Mostafa El Mouzdahir, a 20-year old from Morocco, was in shock after he was intentionally hit by a car and sustained multiple injuries.
A group of young Afghans celebrated Ashura, in Patras, Greece, in 2013. Ashura is a religious observance marked every year by Muslims. The word “ashura” literally means “tenth,” as it is on the 10th day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic year.
Mohammed, Ahmed and Nabi from Morocco pictured in 2012 in Corinth, Greece. The three teenagers live in an abandoned train station.
Migrants on the roof of the old train station in Corinth, Greece, look for a cable to provide their camp with electricity. Around 30 North African migrants live in the old Corinth train stain.
Young migrants from North Africa near the Port of Corinth look at the cargo ship they hope to illegally board.