Greece Week: Giannis Manolis: The Hunter, The Woman and The Hut
In July I headed to the Athens Photo Festival (APhF) for the second year in a row. I was already thinking then about how to approach this “Greek week”. “Dutch week” last year had been a great ride (and the work and coordination required even grew my appreciation for Aline who does this every single day of the year!). But this time I was thinking: I’m not Greek, I have never lived in Greece, in fact I’ve not spent even just a full week there in total in my life; I have Greek friends but most aren’t artists…What criteria would I use to choose photographers? I didn’t want to look at work and be the equivalent of an overenthusiastic tourist that finds everything different and “exotic”. This was something I absolutely wanted to be mindful of. As I visited different exhibits of the APhF19, I found myself in the gallery of the Young Greek Photographers. Discovering the emerging Talents of this exhibition, I knew how I would make Greek week happen: by picking five artists between the winners of 2018 and 2019 hanging at the Benaki Museum, I was assured that you as a reader would get to see highly relevant work, the present and future of Greek photography, according to a Greek jury.
And so we kick off “Greek Week” with film photographer Giannis Manolis who surveys the Greek landscape, capturing landmarks, buildings, objects in varying states of disarray, relics from both ancient and very modern times, people with different ways of life. His images are almost disorientating as they force you to look at contemporary suburban Greece with a hint of nostalgia, leaving you to wonder how
Giannis Manolis was born in Thessaloniki in 1995. He graduated from Architecture School (BAhons, RIBA I) of Metropolitan College of Thessaloniki in 2016 and since then has lived and worked in Thessaloniki. He has been involved in film photography for the last three years trying different photographic media and techniques, lives in Thessaloniki and attends photography seminars in Stereosis school of photography. His work was presented in many online magazines such as Kaltblut, Float and Contributor. He participated in several group exhibitions such as Athens Photo Festival 2018 (Υoung Greek Photographers) at the Benaki Museum, Greece and Pulp Gallery, Vancouver. In September 2018 he was selected to present his first solo exhibition in Photobiennale 2018, Stereosis School of Photography, Greece. His work was selected to be exhibited in San Francisco, Vancouver and Seoul in 2019-2020 by Fotofilmic.
The Hunter, The Woman and The Hut
This series of images is a result of many road trip explorations of the Greek Landscape. These photographs reveal a personal documentation of the modern suburban society that aims to highlight a transitional situation between past, present and future. With a mix of portraits, landscapes and interiors, this project documents fragments of different ways of life with only a main same axis, the Greek landscape. People closer to nature, a hunter, a woman in red, a hut and elements as the Greek house entrance and the Macedonian palace on sale describe a situation between utopia and dystopia, unfolding the leading line of a nostalgic narrative that viewer is encouraged to identify.
What made you start going on those photographic road trips?
I think everything started when I was a child. I used to spend about two summer months close to the nature at my village. This relationship with the nature and my personal need to explore and to give myself adventures that I’ll never live without photography was the main reason to start these road trips.
Connection to the land is particularly strong in some people, or some cultures, nations even. Is this why you reconcile in your images a fragmented society through its landscape?
I’m not sure if I can characterize it as a fragmented society, I think my project in a way comments the modern society.. But with a more hidden way… Seeing a Hunter, an old Hut, a Macedonian Palace you see residues of our modern life.
You talk of transition between past, present and future. When I google “Greek”, the top 3 auto-fill suggestions are Greek economic crisis, Greek economy and Greek currency; and I suspect that’s been the case since 2009. How “different” do you suppose your photographs would have been had you started surveying the Greek landscape 10 years earlier?
My project is definitely connected with economical crisis, maybe I’m not the guy who wants to use it as the core of his text I prefer to show it without saying it. I’m not sure what is the answer, surely some of the places that I visited were still working 10 years ago and some people that I met had a very different life. I can say that surely it would be a very different project.
Your photographs navigate a liminal space between utopia and dystopia. Can you elaborate on why you want the viewer to identify a nostalgic narrative in your work?
As you said I believe the images describes a situation between utopia and dystopia but this thing doesn’t change the nostalgic narrative that I want to show. I believe there are many images in this project that awakes feelings that the viewer has sensed. I think many portraits show loneliness such as the fisherman in the lake and many other feelings in photos like young guy with the horse, the hunter, the refugee with the red dress. I think every photo is a small part of the narrative that I want to describe. I also think the viewer see images that seem to be in a glorious past but they are a documentation of today.
I asked a Dutch intern to comment on my selection of artists for this week. Despite the variety of subject matters and styles, her first reaction to the imagery was “They all look so very Greek…”. Do you think there is such a thing as “a photograph being very Greek”, and if so, what would that mean?
I’m not sure about that. I know that many photographers are trying for their photos to “smell like Greece” and so do I, because I want to make clear the place of my “story”. Everyone has his own way to achieve it. Maybe the economical crisis is a subject that many photographers want to capture or maybe we just cannot avoid the blue skies, the seas, the sun and all that beautiful perfumes that create the Greek smell…
Finally, what’s next for you?
You’ll never can be sure of what’s next! But for now I’m trying to start something very different, more atmospherical but again close to the nature, this time at night.. and also I’m editing this project for a book creation!
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