Posted by dianab under: Interviews.
Kerik Kouklis is a California-based fine-art photographer, specializing in 19th century alternative processes, specifically gum over platinum, and the wet-plate collodion process. He will be teaching an Introduction to Wet-Plate Collodion process at Project Basho. To learn more about Kerik and to see more of his work, check out his website.
Interview by Diana Bloomfield
Kerik, if you can, tell us about your first experience with a camera.
I think I was in sixth grade the first time I picked up a camera. We had a photography section in our sixth grade class where we learned how to develop film and make prints. At that point, I was hooked. My dad made space in the basement for a simple darkroom, and I took some photography classes as a local camera store in Oakland, CA. Soon thereafter, my grandmother gave me her old Zeiss Ikon Contaflex, which was my first 35 mm camera. After a while, it stopped working, so I took it apart because that’s what 12-year-old boys do. I then saved up my money and when I was fourteen, bought a brand new Miranda Auto Sensorex EE. I used that camera all through junior high and high school for things like the school newspaper, yearbook, and concert pictures.
Where, and with whom, did you study photography and printing, or are you entirely self-taught?
Face it, no one is entirely self-taught, and I kind of roll my eyes whenever I hear someone proclaim that. My education came through the UC Extension classes with Frank Espada, reading the Ansel Adams technical books, as well as many other books and magazines. After seeing some of Ed Weston’s platinum prints at a gallery in Carmel, I was smitten and in 1990 I took a weekend workshop on platinum printing, which got me started in alternative processes. The workshop was not well organized and I learned just enough to go on, but I was a boat without a rudder – some successes, but more failures by far. By this time I was shooting 8×10 and spent the next few years refining my platinum printing skills and then moved on to 7×17, 11×14, 12×20 and 14×17 cameras. Of these, the only formats I’m currently using are 8×10 and 14×17. In the mid-90s, as the internet grew and became more accessible, I started to communicate with other like-minded people with whom I shared and learned a great deal. Around 2000, I learned the gum bichromate process from my friend Stuart Melvin, of Santa Fe, NM after which gum bichromate over platinum/palladium became my primary medium. In 2004, I learned the wet plate collodion process from Will Dunniway and France Scully & Mark Osterman. While I continue to work with platinum and gum, wet plate has become my main obsession.
I understand that you are trained in, and work as, a geologist. How does that career mesh with that of a fine art photographer? Do these two seemingly disparate interests influence and inform each other?
While my career as a geologist may seem disparate from that of an artist/photographer, studying geology in college got me out in the field frequently for field trips which often took me to places that also presented interesting photographic opportunities. My current career in geology has little to do with art or photography, and there is very little cross-over, but my landscape work continues to be influenced and informed by my understanding of geology and geologic processes. My professional geologic career will help send my kids to college, make the mortgage payment and the other mundane expenses of modern life, but photography will always be the most important creative outlet in my life as it keeps me grounded and according to my wife, relatively sane. Of course, if money wasn’t a factor I would choose photography over my day job as a geologist, but in the real world, it would be difficult to choose between the two, because without one I can’t really have the other. Having a steady job with a decent income, health insurance for my family and the other benefits that go with it relieve the pressure of selling work as an artist. When the sales come, they are welcome of course, but I don’t worry about when the next check is coming in.
I know that you are often referred to as a “landscape photographer,” yet when viewing some of your works, I see that you have a wonderful collection of portraits you’ve made. These look to be mostly of family and friends, and from your site, it appears almost all are made in the wet-plate collodion process. Can you tell us a little about that process and why you chose it for these particular images?
When I began wet-plate collodion, I did mostly still lifes as it was an easy way to practice and learn the process. Then I began making portraits of family, friends and workshop students because, well, they were there! And I soon found that I very much liked the look of the wet plate portraits. The process can transform a person and bring out characteristics that are overlooked by film and pixels. Because the exposures for wet plate are typically several seconds, the subject has to remain as still as possible; they have to concentrate and cannot put on the mask that people often show when they are in front of a camera. Many of the portraits I’ve done are very close-up, just from the forehead to the chin, because I like the way they challenge the viewer to look the subject right in the eye.
Given the ease of 21st century digital technology, what compels you to print in these ancient, often expensive, and sometimes toxic 19th century processes?
I use the processes that I do because I like the results and I like the “doing”. It’s really that simple. These processes include platinum/palladium, gum bichromate and platinum combined, and wet plate collodion. I don’t do them because they are difficult or rare or expensive; in fact, none of the processes I use really falls into those categories. Wet plate may not be convenient, but it’s not difficult. I can whip out an 8×10 palladium print in less than half an hour for less than 5 bucks. Currently I’m using both digital negatives and in-camera negatives for my work. The quality of digital negatives has improved greatly in just the last few years, and with tools like the Epson 3800 printer and Quad Tone RIP software, they rival large format in-camera negatives. As much as I enjoy working with view cameras, the ease and convenience of hand-held film or digital cameras is a welcome counterpoint. And have you seen the prices of Hasselblads lately? I recently acquired my first “Blad” for a song and have been having a great time with it.
Having taken a workshop from you myself, I know that you are an excellent teacher and very patient. You seem to travel around and offer a number of workshops. What compels you to do that?
I teach workshops for three primary reasons. One, the income from workshops helps support my work; two, the workshops allow me to travel to new and interesting places like Scotland, Alaska, New York, Philadelphia, etc.; and three, and most importantly, the interaction with the people I meet. In fact, many of my best friends are former workshop students. The only downside is that my best friends live in Scotland, England and several states scattered across the US. It’s hard to get everyone together for a party! The only negative aspect of teaching is the time that it takes, but I find that the inspiration I get from teaching and interacting with other like-minded people ultimately inspires me to do new work which more than makes up for the time spent.
What and who are your influences? What, or who, informs the act of photographing for you?
My work has been influenced by many photographers, including historical greats like Weston, Adams, Steichen, Stieglitz and Frederick Evans. But more than any of them, I’ve always been very inspired by the life and work of Josef Sudek. Here’s a guy who didn’t really get going in photography until after he lost an arm in WWI. And to me, he’s made some of the most poetic images in the history of the medium. I am also influenced by contemporary artists like Michael Kenna, Jock Sturges, Sally Mann and many others. I am also deeply influenced by the sculptor Andy Goldsworthy. And finally, I am inspired every single day by my wonderful (and patient) wife and two teenage daughters without whom, none of what I do would really matter.
I know that some photographers choose to photograph when the spirit moves them; others have a very regimented style; still others view their camera as an extension of themselves, something akin to a third arm, and won’t leave home without a camera strapped to their shoulder. Where and how does photography (and printing) fit in for you on any given day of the week?
I’ve never been a project-oriented, regimented photographer. I photograph when the conditions are right (I love the fog!), when I see something interesting, or when I just plain feel like it. These days I often have a camera with me in the car and have been making photographs of the landscape on my commute to and from work. Now that the days are getting longer, I can come home from work, set up a quick still life in the studio and bang out a few wet plates before the light goes away.
Lastly, any tips for photographers who might want to venture into the large-format, alternative process realm of photography? Where does one even begin to start?
The very best thing to do is take a workshop – and I’m not just sayin’ that because I teach! Find someone whose work you like, study what they do, and do whatever it takes to spend some time with them to learn what they know. Even though workshops are expensive- especially if travel is involved- ultimately, the time, materials and frustration you’ll save trying to figure things out on your own will far outweigh the costs of a workshop. The internet is, of course, a wealth of information, Google ’til your eyes fall out! Read as much as you can get your hands on before attending a workshop and you will get much more out of the experience, but reading only takes you so far. Having someone there to look over your shoulder to point out the subtleties of the techniques involved in these processes is invaluable.
Posted by mirumania under: Interviews.
Project Basho has invited Takashi Arai, an emerging Japanese photographer, to lead a series of events related to the daguerreotype process including portrait sessions, lectures, and public demonstrations. We are working closely with several institutions to share this rare opportunity with the public. His work can be seen on his website.
Interview and translation by Mika Kobayashi
When did you start your career in photography and when did you begin creating daguerreotypes?
Before I enrolled in Tokyo College of Photography (TCP), I was a University student studying Biology. My interest in photography began in 2001, when I joined a workshop led by photographer, Rinsaku Suzuki. Before then, I had been interested in writing poetry, but I knew it would be difficult to make a living doing this. Instead I thought I would be able to make a career somehow out of combining writing and photography. I bought my first camera, an Aria by Contax, and enrolled in TCP in 2002. Soon after, I began to research daguerreotypes.
What photographers first attracted your attention?
Great American masters of photography such as Edward Steichen and Alfred Stieglitz — their works were quite different from what I was familiar with at that time. I learned that photography could be an artistic medium and take advantage of its pictorial expressions. I began to explore the techniques of pictorialism such as gum bichromate process and learned to practice intricate techniques of black and white photography. After entering TCP, I learned about the works of Robert Frank and Garry Winogrand and my interest shifted more toward street photography.
When did you first see a daguerreotype?
Before entering TCP, I had a chance to see a daguerreotype while I was traveling in the UK. I was stunned by it. The daguerreotype was quite different from other photographic processes. It appeared like a hologram to me.
What kind of work did you make while attending TCP?
I was strongly influenced by the works of Garry Winogrand and Shigeo Gocho. Both of them captured images that reveal where they were and what they saw in a spontaneous way. I did some B&W street photography to train myself. From 2002 to 2003, I made “ARIA”, a film composed of a series of my photographs. Initially, I was not able to make good images, but in the end, it all came together. I believe that street photography is the foundation of photography just as sketching is the basis of all visual expressions.
Were you working with daguerreotypes while making “ARIA”?
Yes, but I did not know much about daguerreotypes at all. Technically, I thought daguerreotypes would be simple compared to other historical processes. All you need is a camera, a box and iodine. I asked a small factory in my neighborhood to plate sheets of copper with silver and tested with them. I took my first daguerreotype at the pond and it worked quite well. Looking back, it was sheer luck because I did not have all the details down for the process. When I first began, my interest had more do with technical curiosity. At that time, I was not thinking about showing my work or using this as a medium for my art.
How did the daguerreotype process then become the focus of your work?
I was exhibiting some daguerreotypes when a person from Yokohama Museum of Art came to see the show. Later, I was invited from the (Yokohama) Museum to participate in their artist residence program. It was in this program that I really started to concentrate on making daguerreotypes.
During my residence, I made portraits of about fifty people using daguerreotypes. When I exhibited these works at their gallery, I received a lot of feedback partly because the daguerreotype is an unusual and rare photographic medium. I had not imagined that these daguerreotypes would make such a strong impression. At that time, I was not yet satisfied with the overall quality of my work, but that feedback motivated me to improve my technique.
How did going through the residence program effect your work?
For me, the residence program at the museum was more about the process than about making work. I believe this applies to any kind of art making, the act of looking at oneself is a theme and the work is a kind of by-product that comes from this.
Rai Fuiji and Hideaki Kawashima, two painters who also joined the residency, had a strong influence on me. Though their medium is not photography, they each combine elements of contemporary and traditional in their work. Others artists also encouraged me as I was developing my process and artistic expression.
In 2008, I exhibited daguerreotypes in a solo show held at Hayama, Kanagawa (‘Toward Lakes’). I exhibited daguerreotypes of landscapes — waterfall, forest, and sea.
When I see your color photographs, I notice that you are attracted to the surfaces of things and reflections. Do you think there is any relationship between your interest in daguerreotypes and your other photographs?
At the time I was shooting color photographs, I was more interested in photographs that are spontaneous in nature rather than pre-visualized or pre-conceived images. Taking photographs of reflective surfaces intrigued me because there was always a gap between what you saw in the finder and the actual photograph. In a way, there are dual images: the image in the mirror and the image of the mirror. What’s interesting about this is that you can only focus on one image at a time. And I think this gap is the rediscovery of reality which is unique to photography. The mirror-like quality of the daguerreotype accentuates this.
What have you been doing recently?
In 2008, I worked at Koganecho Bazzar, a local community art event, where I set up a portrait studio. I also have plans to visit the United States soon to lead daguerreotype sessions. I visited once before and met several people who I want to take pictures of. I also have a feeling that the quality of light in the US will be completely different and I am curious about how this will effect my photographs.
Posted by estelle under: Interviews.
Koirchiro Kurita’s photography stems from the writings of Thoreau which he describes as, “a reminiscence of Zuangzi’s philosophy and so close to the oriental way of understanding nature.” His connection with nature through his study of perceptual psychology has been central to his work. Kurita works primarily with an 8×10 view camera, implementing an alternative printing process by hand coating large format platinum prints on handmade Gampi vellum.
Koirchiro Kurita is currently exhibiting his work at Project Basho, and is also offering a Gallery Lecture with Stuart Rome. For more information on Koirchiro Kurita, please visit his website.
How long have you been working in photography and where did you study?
I have been working for forty years in photography. I studied perceptual psychology and I devoted myself to the research of visual perception. I studied how the human could visually perceive movement and I used a camera for my research. This is when I learned photography- it was completely self-educated. After I graduated from University, I later on became a photography assistant. That was my opportunity for learning the professional photography industry.
What equipment do you use and what is your process?
I used an 8×10″ view camera and my photographic process is platinum printing.
What in particular do you enjoy about the platinum print process and working with hand made Japanese paper?
Alfreid Stieglitz used Japanese paper for photogravure and once referred to platinum printing as “The Prince of Media”. I, however, wanted to use historical Japanese Gampi paper (called “King of Paper” in Japan) for platinum printing.
You originally worked in the commercial photography, when did you switch to working in the fine art world and why?
When I was forty years old, I encountered Henry D. Thoreau’s “Walden”. I wanted to photograph landscapes as fine art which I had never pursued as a commercial photographer.
What caused you to move to the United States after living in Japan for 50 years?
During my stay in New York City as a grantee of Asian Cultural Council Grants (can be compared to a Rockefeller Grant), I had the chance to have a solo exhibition at a gallery in the area. This was my new beginning to work as fine art photography in New York City, and it was a huge difference compared to Japan. The length of time I had spent in Japan did not matter.
What major differences do you see between the fine art photography world in the United States and Japan?
At that time, there were only two or three fine art photography galleries in Tokyo.
Tell us what draws you to photographing landscapes and the connection you feel to the natural world.
Things in nature are schooled in the rules of the natural world (natural law). To understand the balance of energy, we share their existence wisely by preserving the harmony of the whole. Whether it is for the lively spring green leaves, the dried withered leaves or grass, my photographs are meant to pay respect to their wisdom and beauty.
In your statement for the series Terrasphere, Hydrosphere, Atmostphere, you say that “The world of Nature embraces Atmosphere, Terrasphere and Hydrosphere (Air, Ground and Water). Each surface has a connecting border in a mysterior way.” In what way are you attempting to solve this mystery?
Those expanses, all the things and phenomena including living things like us, exist in time as independent entities. Though each entity is independent, they never exist alone. They share the border with other entities and with other spheres. To recognize the independence of each and all entities, the connection is not in conflict but rather in a state of order and harmony. Each connection contributes to a harmony of nature as a whole. My work is the expression of the connection between myself and Nature. It is also a record of the connection of the things photographed. Since we are so conditioned to think in words and communicate with each other in words, we seem to neglect our innate ability to use our senses. This “connection” in Nature is nothing but wordless communication. Interestingly enough, photography itself is also a form of communication without words.
Your approach to photography seems poetic and philosophical. What books, authors, or artists do you find inspirational and how has that inspiration influenced your work?
Edward Weston, Paul Strand, Minor White. But I am much more influenced by great people who are dedicated in other fields, not necessarily just photography. Examples are Zhuang Zi, Kinji Imanishi and Henry D. Thoreau.
I was especially influenced by Henry D. Thoreau. I realized that Thoreau’s vision was reminiscent of the philosophy of Zhuang Zi and it echoed the Oriental way of understanding nature. The only difference is that Thoreau’s way of thinking was absolutely free from everything. That was very inspiring and influential for my photography.
Where are some of the locations you photograph?
I don’t specify the location at all. I go where ever it reminds me of a place I have seen or have been to before. I think almost no one can tell the specific location where I’ve gone to shoot, and I think it is unnecessary to know. The important thing is how we communicate with nature and the metaphor I have in mind.
How does the location influence your photographs?
I like to take pictures in areas that have water and plants. I do not like to photograph places that are too controlled by artificial things.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
I want to continue to concentrate on human-touched creations in our digital era. I am currently preparing for my next project.
Posted by jessicakh under: Interviews.
Scott McMahon teaches at the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design in Lancaster, PA. His work has been published in Pinhole Photography, Rediscovering a Historic Technique (2nd & 3rd Edition) by Eric Renner, The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes by Christopher James as well as Pinhole Journal Vol. 11, 12, 15 & 22 and he has exhibited his work throughout the United States. Scott currently serves on the board of Society for Photographic Education (SPE mid-atlantic region). Scott has been teaching Pinhole Photography Workshops and Gum Bichromate Workshops (August 9 & 10, 2008) at Project Basho. For more information and to see more of Scott’s work, please visit his website.
How long have you been a photographer?
I’ve been working with photographic processes for about 15 years. I hesitate to call myself a photographer, I’m more of an image-maker and photography is the primary way I generate images.
What is your background/education?
I studied photography at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia receiving my BFA in 1995. More recently I went back to graduate school to get my MFA at Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. In grad school I continued with photography and also experimented with film/video, sculpture and installation.
The range of processes you work with is vast and touches upon both historical and modern techniques. How did you come to working with so many processes?
I guess it’s hard for me to just concentrate on one process. I like to move around within the medium and discover new possibilities. I love how photography is an amalgam of so many things. As an undergraduate student I was introduced to various photographic and printmaking processes. I was introduced to non-silver processes (cyanotype, vandyke brown, gum bichromate, platinum/palladium) by Sarah Van Keuren. She also got me started with pinhole photography. Alida Fish also inspired me to push the limits of the photograph and investigate the infinite possibilities and combinations these techniques had to offer.
Many of these techniques seem to be specific to each series. How do you go about developing each project?
I usually start with a preconceived idea for an image, or series of images. I keep a somewhat scattered visual journal; it’s an archive of sorts. I write down or sketch out ideas, collage pieces of test images, record dreams, etc. The process or technique is based on the mood and feeling I want to convey. Often the way I print something in the end is very different than my original idea. Many of the techniques I use are similar to each other in some way, as an example the gum bichromate process has a similar gelatinous skin as a tintype, both surfaces can be manipulated to a degree. My goal in working with different processes is to blend it with the concept so the work isn’t just about a certain technique.
What is your concept of photography and how is that reflected in your work?
To ”build” and “make” images rather than “take” and “capture” them. To question what is fact and what is fiction. I’m interested in creating images that are direct and simple in process for example: the use of the pinhole camera and the use of bioluminescence.
You’ve worked a lot with pinhole cameras. What about this camera interests you?
I’m interested in the idea of fabricating a camera, or modifying an existing camera for specific projects and ideas. I treat the camera as part of my work, as small sculptures as well as image-making devices. Pinhole has kept my attention and curiosity due to the simplicity of the camera as well as the complexity of the images it is capable of recording. Most of my pinhole exposures are several seconds to several minutes long. I like what happens with that compression of time, everything in front of the camera is recorded during the duration of the exposure even if the evidence is subtly represented in the final image. Shifts in perspective, changing facial expressions, movement caused by the wind, etc. are things that I think pinhole can capture in an interesting way.
Out of all the techniques you use, gum bichromate seems to be the most prevalent. What about this labor-intensive technique in particular fascinates you?
I’m never quite satisfied with a “straight print” or one that is essentially unaltered…I like having my hand in the process to push and pull details. The thought of an image being built up slowly in layers of color interests me. I’m also intrigued by the malleability of gum printing; I often work into the surface of the print with brushes and other implements while it is developing. It’s also very active and somewhat performative, which I like. Gum printing is a wonderful hybrid process; it combines photography, printmaking, drawing, painting and a little insanity!
Tell us about your “Projections” series and your inclusion of multi-media in your work.
For many years I’ve attempted to bring the photograph into a more dimensional format, bringing it off the wall so it occupies the space differently. I want the viewer’s relationship to change as they navigate this work. There’s a sound component that relates to the projected image as well as the kinetic sculpture that houses the work. Some pieces inflate and deflate, some are motorized and others are on motion sensors activated by the viewer. The idea of a projection fascinates me and has ever since I viewed the projected image inside a camera obscura for the first time. A projection is a fleeting, ephemeral thing. It is not tangible like a photograph, but it can still reside in our memory long after experiencing it. The work becomes an extension and substitute for our own human behavior. For me these pieces retain a similar feel or tone as my photographic work. I’m still dealing with similar themes of impermanence and our own fragility. It is about light and time, pulse and breath, death and rebirth.
Can you talk about the “Bioluminescent” series that you produced with Ahmed Salvador? How does working collaboratively affect your working process?
Ahmed Salvador and I have been collaborating off and on for several years. We started playing music together and then that flowed into photographic experiments (some more absurd than others). We’re also very inspired by the writing of Bill Jay, especially the collection of essays in his book Cyanide and Spirits. The Bioluminescent series started in 1995 I guess to satisfy our curiosity whether the light from a firefly (or lightening bug) would make an exposure directly onto a piece of light-sensitive photographic material. We gathered a few fireflies and placed them inside a container along with a sheet of color transparency film. We waited a few minutes watching the firefly walk across the surface of the film, lighting up as it went along. The film was processed and to our amazement we had images, not just blobs of light (though there’s some of that), but also fine detail of their legs rendered in silhouette. We then started adding leaves, grass, flower pedals, twigs, etc. inside the container and the firefly light basically produced photograms of these materials on the film. Exposure times were somewhat intuitive, but after a while we had a pretty good idea when the film received enough exposure. The fireflies actually do most of the work! The final pieces are presented in light boxes, the image size ranges from 4×5 inches to 8×10 inches. We are currently working on making them really large to exaggerate the scale of the minute world of the firefly. Working collaboratively is fun and somewhat challenging at times, as you have to give up some control and compromise. Ahmed and I have a similar intuitive sense that makes working together a fun adventure.
The figure is a recurring focus in your work, whether it is through found images of others’ pasts or self-portraits in a staged environment, what about the figure do you find compelling?
Though I often use myself as the subject in my work I try to keep the identity somewhat anonymous so that I am a character playing a roll. It’s often hard for me to communicate to someone else how I want to represent the figure in an image. Something gets lost in translating my visual idea to directing someone to act out scenario, or pose a certain way. I find the figure fascinating in that it is a temporary shell; the photograph preserves that state or condition the body is in at the time. I also use found images of people to try and tell a story. I try to imagine what the original intention of the image was, who it might have been for, what is the expression/posture, etc. I guess with this work I’m trying to get to know the subject with just the visual information I have in the photograph. In most of my work there’s a sense that the figure is engaging in mundane actions, manipulations of ritual and experiments with no beginning and no end.
Tell us about your recent work.
Renovating my house…that has certainly occupied a lot of my time. I’m working on some new firefly images, building a primitive super 8 pinhole camera and starting to work again on the “projections” series.
Teaching seems to be a big part of your life. How does teaching continue to inspire you?
When I began teaching, the model that I worked from was based on skills and a style many other students and I had thrived on. I was inspired to pursue teaching because I had such passionate and enthusiastic teachers, most notably Sarah Van Keuren. She empowered me to see the potential of photography and my own creativity and continues to inspire me to this day. I love to share what I know about the medium and I also learn a great deal from my students.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
It’s hard to say, maybe photographs of sunsets!
Posted by jessicakh under: Interviews.
Genevieve Coutroubis is a documentary photographer based in Philadelphia and works with emerging artists and the community as Director of the Regional Arts Programs at the Center For Emerging Visual Artists. Ms. Coutroubis has been one of the most active and committed B&W printers at Project Basho. Her work is currently on exhibit at Surcle Gallery, located on 110 Church Street, Philadelphia. The exhibit will be open May 11 through June 6 with a First Friday closing reception on June 6, 5 to 8 PM. For more information, please visit her website.
How long have you been a photographer?
I started photographing 19 years ago. I had an amazing photography teacher in high school that encouraged me to pursue photography in college.
What is your background/education?
I have a BS Photojournalism from Boston University and a MS Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania.
What is your process? What camera(s) do you use?
I mostly use my Nikon FM2 for my black and white work. I love the flexibility and durability of this camera. In terms of output I still use the black and white darkroom. 50% of what I love about photography happens in the darkroom. I don’t have the same experience or results when working with photography on the computer. I have begun to use a Holga camera to create color work as well. I love the effect the Holga brings to my images.
People photograph for different reasons. What does photography mean to you?
My work has always been rooted in social change. I believe images give people access to information and experiences they might not otherwise have. I also love to use my camera as a tool of exploration. Whether I
am documenting villages and towns I’ve never seen or the places I call home, my photography allows me to experience Greece in a way I wouldn’t otherwise.
Tell us about your recent work.
My work includes my black and white portraiture which I have most recently presented as an installation at Surcle Gallery in Philadelphia. The installation is inspired by the photograph-filled walls of the Greek homes I’ve encountered in my travels. Rather than framing and hanging the work in a conventional and uniform manner, I printed images (to-size) for old and antique frames. I presented this work as groupings and clusters that mirror the family photographs in contemporary Greek homes.
In addition, I have recently started to create color Holga images of Greece as well as collect sound recordings throughout the country. Presenting work about one subject matter in such a variety of ways allows my audiences to get a fuller sense of Greece and, ideally, simulating aspects of what it feels like to “be there.”
Greece seems to be a central focus in your photography, can you tell us why that is? Do you photograph other places/subject matter?
I have been photographing Greece for 13 years but I really turned all of my attention there seven years ago. I am a dual citizen (Greek/American) and I have spent my life between the two countries. I currently return twice a year. The material I collect during those returns provides me with enough work in the darkroom for the rest of the year.
I enjoy working on a project that combines my personal identity with my goal of promoting social change by encouraging understanding, cultural awareness and social awareness. Rather than using photographs to extract people from society (ie. exclusively photographing immigrant communities in Greece or political movements), I am inspired to photograph social landscapes. By presenting a holistic vision of a society, in my case Greece, specific aspects (ie. immigration, poverty, gender roles) will surface as they exist within the social fabric. In this series I have hundreds of photographs that range from portraits, images of objects, landscapes, text in the landscape, etc. I travel throughout cities, villages, islands and the mountains in Greece to gain the widest perspective possible.
Tell us about your photographs of graffiti in Greece . How have you seen this form of public political protest in Greece change over the years?
I have been photographing graffiti and political posters, basically text in the visual landscape, for as long as I have been photographing in Greece. I presented this work for the first time this year through the Women to Watch Exhibition at Moore College of Art in Philadelphia. This group of images, though I have exhibited it on its own, is meant to be viewed in a conversation with my other photography of Greece. My interest in this project as a whole is to show Greece as a multifaceted country. By including this text-based work, I can explore the socio-political climate over the years.
The political nature of Greece has remained constant though the issues that they grapple with are evolving. Three themes I have noticed in the political posters and graffiti are, the US and our involvement in Iraq, immigration, and the environment.
How has your work evolve over the 13 years you have been working in Greece?
When I began photographing Greece I primarily photographed the people. As my project and interest has evolved I have begun to strive for a more inclusive view of the country. I began to incorporate the graffitti/poster work, color images of places and sound. I try to capture many components of this complex place.
What role does your background and study in anthropology/sociology play in your work?
Much of the work I do in Greece is ethnographic in nature. I use both the methodology and ethical considerations that I spent years studying in the social sciences. My interest photographing subjects over years, rather than in creating two or three week projects is a direct result of my studies. My constant assessment of my role as the photographer is also a bi-product of this academic framework.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
I will be showing more of my color Holga work and I will be expanding on the use of sound in my artwork.