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  • The Well Preserved Role of Shame in Greek Society by Ioanna Sakellaraki

    Ioanna Sakellaraki is a 28 year-old freelance photographer born in Athens, Greece, currently based in Brussels. Working with major global media, she is a graduate of photography, journalism and culture. Her personal projects explores the fine line between isolation and obsession looking at the connection of humans with places. In her series Aidos, Ioanna uses symbols and metaphors to deal with the importance of shame in Greek culture.

    To begin with, could you please tell us about your first steps in photography? What drew you to the medium?
    I started with photography six years ago during my frst MA in European Urban Cultures. During my MA thesis I carried out a research about post-industrial culture and heritage in Manchester and graffti art in Bristol and I started documenting this photographically on the side. For the next 5 years, I found myself in the international urban exploration scene documenting urban decay around the world. During an international development project, I did in Georgia, South Caucasus, I worked very closely with communities and started contextualising my work in photographic series. I then studied photography in Brussels and took off with some of my personal series through which I embraced analogue medium format as well. I feel that photography connects both my fears and my desire for freedom. By photographing what I struggle with I appropriate it and eventually accept it. The process of making images sets my mind free.

    What was the starting point of Aidos? Is it a long-term project?
    Aidos started almost 2 years ago when my father passed away. Having lived away from Greece for the last 8 years, I felt the need to create a body of work through which I could understand my own country. Aidos is inspired by memory while embracing transformation. The concept I built around the series comes from a strong personal interpretation of my homeland and photography is the medium used for setting up a mood around these ideas and feelings.

    “I felt the need to create a body of work through which I could understand my own country.”

    It began to develop like a Greek myth about life and death contextualising the idea of mourning in the wider field of Greek drama and psychology. Aidos is indeed a long-term project I continue with. For the next two years I will be doing a MA Photography at the Royal College of Art in London so I am looking forward to taking this further.

    If we have to categorize this series, would we call it documentary photograhy? I discern smart conceptual elements. Are these elements a requirement for the meaning of the project or they are revealing an evolution of your personal style and we’ ll see them extensively in your future projects?
    My background on journalism has always helped me develop critical thinking and make solid research around topics. Photography is for me a language I use differently. The facts are there, our approach to the world is always going to be personal though and we should embrace this subjectivity as it can be a great source of inspirational art. My interest lays on what we actually observe and pay attention to behind already established notions. I think this is how my approach differs to traditional documentary photography. And yes, I think you will see more of this in my future projects.

    What are your future plans for Aidos? Do you intend to publish a photo-book or do you prefer the exhibition walls features?
    Working towards a photobook has always helped me make the connection amongst my images and lead myself towards new directions and fresher perspectives on my work. I have occasionally made photobook dummies of Aidos and when the series feels like is ready for a photobook, I would give it the chance. Continuing with exhibitions is surely part of showing the work and discussing it further.

    In greek mythology Aidos is the name of the Greek goddess of shame. In your opinion, what is the reason that in contemporary Greece and obviously in many other countries the tradition of shaming still survives?
    With regards to Greek culture, shaming is a lifelong tradition for positioning someone in society. I felt this was a big part of my education while growing up back home. I was aware of it but was only able to observe it while living abroad and visiting the country sporadically. I still feel is part of me nowadays regarding the ways my perception around my actions and decisions (or other people’s ones) is formed. Photography helped me question this and better understand it. ‘’Shame on you’’ is a very common language feature used in everyday speech and dialogues in Greek culture. You are occasionally shamed almost about everything. It is a moral discipline you are asked to obey to. In a wider context, I find that this is the analogy with society itself. We are struggling to respond to what is presented to us as the right thing to do. We occasionally question but we always find it hard to break from the norm. We always need to justify ourselves with reference to the principal cultural ideas dominating our decision-making process and life choices.

    Aidos is currently on view at Festival Pil’Ours, International Festival of Photography for female professional photographers in France and will be part of Brighton Photo Fringe 2018 in September.

    More on her website.