Security Guard relieving himself on the foundation of
western civilization. Canon TX camera. 50mm 1.8FD lens.
Tri-X film. Scan from Print. ©1978 Kirk Tuck.
I woke up one hot and dusty morning in Athens, pulled on my running shoes, a comfortable pair of jeans and an tee shirt and headed out the door of my hotel to see the Acropolis. I owned two cameras at the time. One was a Canonet QL17 and the other was a Canon TX with a 50mm lens. I took the bigger SLR. And a couple rolls of 35mm Tri-X film.
As I walked through the city I took tentative photographs. The Greek temperament seemed at odds with the laid back ethos of my native Austin, Texas. I'd bring my camera up to my eye and in the finder I would find a scowling face and a challenge to the idea that photography was a universally welcome undertaking. I'm sure a lot has changed in the last thirty years. Except the Greek temperament.
On my first visit I found that most hotels were not air conditioned, no trains were air conditioned and no monument had yet been totally Disneyfied. By that I mean that people didn't necessarily line up for entry. The enjoyment of a monument or attraction wasn't constrained by velvet ropes, defined queues, or minders, or ticket takers. If you got to the Acropolis early chances were you got there before the officials and the security guards and you were free to walk into the unattended gates and enjoy posterity in all of its glory.
I walked up the steep hill and into the general area. In those days pieces and fragments of statutes and facia carvings dotted the general surroundings of the ancient building. Blocks and columns lay splayed and revealed for all who might want to climb on them or run their hands over the ancient marble faces in wonder....or for good luck.
The sun was climbing slowly above the horizon and it would eventually be another white hot day in early September. As I looked down the hill I could see a rising but still thin curtain of yellow tinged dust rise up from the streets. I was one of the first souls to climb the hill that morning.
As I walked around admiring the giant columns I turned a corner and encountered my first official of the day. A security guard for this national treasure. He was casually urinating on the foundation of the monument. He finished, zipped up his trousers and then turned around towards me and, while fishing a cigarette and a lighter out of the pockets of his jacket, asked me, "Ticket?"