New Jersey based photographer Greg Maka has been documenting the work in Abydos, Egypt since 2009. He has also dedicated much of his time to other projects in Egypt, from the rooftop pigeon fanciers in Cairo to photographing Tahrir Square during the height of the revolution. With an introspective approach he seeks to reveal that which lies beneath the surface of both quotidian life and historical moments in time.
Nearly a kilometer in every direction the desert lay pocked with the remnants of centuries of exploratory excavations by archaeologists, looters, and those who fall somewhere in between. Huts constructed of reed now overlook this barren pit ridden landscape sitting atop concomitant mounds. They serve as second homes for the guards watching over the site.
At night coded messages shine from one guard to the next via the flicker of a light. If a threat is suspected, action is taken. The site guards fire off glorified cap guns and flares in hopes of scaring off armed looters, while the monument guards take to more drastic measures of sly action. Once the threat passes, water from an emptied bleach bottle is poured into the kettle already sitting over a fire and over the brewing tea they rest, keeping their eyes out to the night for the next flicker of light.
In the weeks following the start of the revolution, the archaeological team that was meant to work in Abydos for 10 weeks evacuated and the police and military fled. Armed only with walking sticks and quirky scare tactics, the civilian site guards and local villagers were in reality outmatched by gangs of armed looters seeking quick riches. It was only because of their quick action and unusual wit that these men were able to save the site from further plunder.
I first became interested in photography as a form of expression, but having studied the fine arts – having drawn, printed, painted, and sculpted – I realized that photography was a medium that could foster a greater connection to the outside world. Thus photography to me serves as a means for continuing my education and broadening my understanding of that which may surround me. I adhere to the idea that, as John Stilgoe states, “Education ought to work outdoors, in the rain and the sleet, in the knife-like heat of a summertime Nebraska wheat field, along a half-abandoned railroad track on a dark autumn afternoon, on the North Atlantic in winter.” So in a way my photos become my notes.