Georges Salameh works in Athens, Greece, in the field of filmmaking and photography. He was born in Beirut in 1973, and studied Film & Art History in Paris. Georges has lived in Lebanon, Cyprus, Greece, France and Sicily. Because of numerous migrations, he has always avoided putting a national label on myself, or on his work. He describes it as an idiosyncratic exploration on the notion of sedimentation, both in the physical and metaphysical sense.
You lived in numerous countries in the world, which place do you feel closest to?
I’d give legs and brain, curiosity and reasoning to Athens. That’s my apprenticeship. Heart and kidney, love & refuge go to Sicily. That’s where my son is growing up. Hands and ears, artisanship & sense of listening go to Lebanon. That’s where my origins are. Tongue and eyes, language & gaze go to France. That’s where I got my education… If there’s a common denominator, it’s probably the Mediterranean, the dark blue sea! And if as an artist there is some kind of a citizenship for me, it’s always being foreigner. We all have a foreigner within. Mine’s a convoluted notion of nationality. But there’s an undocumented immigrant in each of us.
How did you get interested in photography and why did you pick photography as a medium and form of expression?
Photography came through my apprentice in the film industry. After several experiences as assistant camera & as assistant director, I got offered once the job of set photographer, which I ended up doing for a few times. But it wasn’t until I realised that photography could express something more than frame and documentation that it became more relevant. This happened while I was working on a Greek feature film in summer 1997, and it happened in a very unusual way!
Few days later my bag with the slides inside was stolen. So I was left with only a reproduction of that lost image & a missed farewell. That was a turning point in my relationship to photography.
“It’s somehow the quiet side of urban or landscape photography during which attention is given primarily to the state of mind and not to the hunting of exceptional phenomena.”
Since then I continue to produce images without any particular purpose, and edit them following a long process…
Please introduce us to Isolitudine
Isolitudine is a state of spirit but also a tale of my Sicilian “self-exile”.
I borrow the word “self-exile” to define this endeavor. It allows me to step outside Sicilian territory and look at the island & myself as if I am also the other, the foreigner.
I have spent most of my life travelling between Mediterranean shores. In 2011, on a late autumn afternoon walk near Cefalu, a town on the European shore of Sicily, I traced a path that led to a secret beach. There was this sea view with little islets. They reflected on a little scale all those migrations in my life! This was an epiphany, tender, sacred, silent, otherworldly. It was the moment that this phrase from Gesualdo Bufalino’s book came back to mind and accompanied me until I started editing: Islands within an island: this is precisely the emblem of our loneliness; I would like to define it with a non-existent word ‘isolitudine’.
What inspired Isolitudine, what is your link to Sicily?
In 2005 I went to Sicily for a film job, I had been there 11 years earlier for few months. This island kept on calling me back for a year until I decided to move there and it became my refuge. I took it for a refuge for 12 years.
Sicily has taught me a new language of silence, a stream of sight, bearing a submarine map of the senses. The years spent in the heart of the Mediterranean was a period of a long transition. It’s also where – I can say this only now – my visual language started taking shape and form.
And in this body of work Isolitudine, those pictures, collected notes of a candid botanist, punctuate the melancholic geography of my wanderings.
How do you hope viewers react to the series?
My photography work revolves around experiential, direct, non-conceptual photography. I call it “Peripatetic photography”. It’s somehow the quiet side of urban or landscape photography during which attention is given primarily to the state of mind and not to the hunting of exceptional phenomena. This internalization of attention brings a more sober & poetic reading of reality. It’s a detached way of making more intimate images open to interpretations. You create or inhabit a familiar space as if the world you explore is just another room in your home.
Once my work is exhibited or presented in public, in any form, I consider it not mine anymore. So it is for the viewers to make whatever they like with it. I only hope they enjoy it, in the way they choose to.
Enjoy his photographs on his blogspot.