Internationally, Cyprus is known for its beautiful sandy beaches, vibrant culture, and tasty Mediterranean cuisine. Fewer people are aware of the island’s darker past and the events that led to Cyprus’s division and the occupation of the north.
Since the Turkish invasion in 1974, Cyprus has remained divided by the United Nations Buffer Zone, which cuts across the island’s width. As a result of the invasion, a myriad of places in Cyprus lie abandoned, effectively frozen in time since 1974.
Andrew Avraam, a Greek Cypriot photographer based in the United Kingdom, has captured many of these forgotten spaces behind the lens of his camera. Greek Reporter spoke exclusively to Avraam about his fascinating portfolio.
About the photographer
Andrew Avraam is a 25-year-old photographer, originally from the village of Aradippou on the outskirts of Larnaca in Cyprus. His photography can be found on his Instagram and Facebook accounts.
He travels frequently between the United Kingdom and Cyprus. He currently resides in Nottingham, where he studied Tourism Management at Nottingham Trent University.
Avraam’s project to photograph abandoned places in Cyprus began with a chance encounter in the Old Town of Larnaca. He was just 15 years old when he stumbled across an abandoned building that caught his attention.
“I go by this one building and the window was open and I walked past and from the corner of my eye I see all this stuff and I did a double take and had a look inside and it was just full of antiques, so I’m thinking oh my God, this is crazy that they left all this here,” Avraam told Greek Reporter.
“Then, I took a picture and I left and that was it. Then I kept thinking about this place and I just had to go back, I don’t know what it was, I was just drawn to it, I was just really curious about it. I just wondered who used to live here, why was it abandoned, why is all this stuff here? I don’t know, I was just so interested in it.”
Avraam then returned to the vacant building to take more photos which he uploaded on Facebook. It was the unlikely beginning of a project to photograph abandoned places across Cyprus which the photographer has been compiling for over a decade now.
Avraam’s fascination with abandoned places in Cyprus compelled him to delve further into the world of photography.
“I started doing research online about abandoned places. I got really inspired by a photographer called Rebecca Bathory and actually ended up becoming friends with her for some time,” Avraam told Greek Reporter.
“She was voted one of the best photographers in the world, she’s got several books, she’s traveled all over the world taking pictures of abandoned places, Chernobyl, Fukushima, places like that.”
Avraam still views himself as an amateur photographer and is always keen to learn more about his craft.
“I’ve been doing this as a hobby for ten years, whenever I can and I wouldn’t consider myself a professional or anything. I’m still learning,” he said.
Finding abandoned places in Cyprus
As one might imagine, finding all these abandoned places across Cyprus is quite a lengthy process in itself. Over the years, Avraam estimates that he has been to at least over 1,000 deserted places on the island.
“Over the years I managed to amass a huge list of abandoned places I had seen in person,” the photographer said to Greek Reporter. “I’ll find people, they’ve taken pictures of different places and message them for locations.”
“I’ll spend ages on Google Earth doing lots of research. Even on Facebook and Instagram, photography websites, just any leads, anything I think is worth photographing.”
“Also, a lot of the places I’ve photographed have been on spontaneous trips so it’s a mixture. Some spontaneous trips and places I go to and other places where I know exactly where they are and what I can expect from them.”
Over the ten years Andrew Avraam has been taking pictures of abandoned spaces in Cyprus, he has had the opportunity to capture some truly remarkable and often profoundly moving images behind the lens.
2017 was a particularly notable year. The photographer was able to secure a visit with the United Nations to the derelict airport in Nicosia. That same year, he was also able to arrange another trip to photograph a vintage vehicle graveyard of over 500 vehicles, which had been left to slowly gather rust since the invasion in 1974.
In 2020, the Turkish Cypriot authorities illegally reopened parts of Varosha to the public. Avraam took photographs of the ghost town there, which has not been inhabited since the invasion in 1974. Whilst there, he had the chance to talk to Greek Cypriot refugees who were driven from their homes.
“When I was there it was so emotional,” Avraam said, “I met a few refugees there who used to live in the city. One of them showed me her house and there was a photo of her mum there that she really wanted to get and I saw her begging the Turkish police to let her inside and retrieve the picture of her mum.”
In Varosha and other abandoned places in Cyprus, Avraam found poignant reminders of what used to be, including children’s homework, family photographs, clothes, locked safes, jewelry, and even the remnants of uneaten meals.
In 2021, Avraam managed to arrange another trip with the United Nations to a restricted area, this time to the Old Town of Nicosia to parts that have been cordoned off by the Buffer Zone for nearly five decades. This trip took four years to arrange.
When Greek Reporter asked Avraam to discuss the importance and impact of his work, he reflected on how his photographs have captured points in time that have remained frozen since the troubles of the 1960s and the subsequent invasion in 1974.
“I’m happy that I’m capturing these places because I’m capturing what they look like today, the forgotten places behind closed doors and walls that people haven’t seen for many years. It kind of gives people closure, it’s a mixture of emotions,” the photographer said.
“I’m also happy to be able to do this because no one else is doing this and I forever have an archive of what these places look like. And also, there’s a lot of places I’ve photographed which no longer exist and the only record of them is my photos.”
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