Greece Week: Ilias Georgiadis: Over.State
Yesterday I mentioned how concerned I was with the risk of looking at imagery and being like an overenthusiastic tourist that finds everything different or exotic while preparing for Greek week. But when I first browsed through the work of the APhF Young Greek Photographers from the last few years, I was surprised by the large number of artists who included Greek antiquity, mythology, philosophy and democracy in their artist statements and imagery. Extensive references to how a two to three thousand years old civilization is directly impacting who we are today is not something I had seen anywhere else before.
Film photographer Ilias Georgiadis contrasted in that respect as he professes a will to make much wider and universal connections through his work, to the cosmos even. Can one explore the human condition outside of the cultural context in which we each live? Ilias premises that, with photography, you can. Telling the story of a “young and lost person trying to feel free and find love” he explores emotional themes and the intwinement of our inner lives and the reality around us.
Born in northern Greece, Ilias Georgiadis started experimenting with the photographic medium at the age of 19. After extensive travels in 2011, he stops his university studies and starts making pictures in an obsessive way.
Ηis main interest focuses on the basis of the current social and interpersonal issues about human nature. An approach based on Europe which started in 2012 in Greece and continues until now. He is always questioning the body and the mind, always trying to reach and express the limits of oneself within all possible ways.
Ilias’s debut series of work named “Over.State” has been shown in various international festivals, solo and group shows across the world and has been featured in on-line and printed publications.
In 2019, “Over.State” was published as a monograph by Blow Up Press (Warsaw). Currently, Ilias is working on his new series.
For me, photography is the missing dot that connects what is deep inside us and we cannot understand or describe, with the world. A connection that transcends and moves through spacetime, in unpredictable, mysterious and non-linear ways. A link between reality and love. I believe we take pictures because our inner self wants to reconnect with the cosmos. We want to feel close to people, places, objects and as time goes by, we recognize in them a part of ourselves. With photography, we reveal ourselves to the unknown, while preserving a link to the real. My work depicts my innermost states of fear, desire, affection. Standing in the middle between life and the fear of inevitable mortality. In particular, “Over.State” depicts the story of a young and lost person trying to feel free and find love. An emotional exploration of the human condition. An effort to understand how we express freedom, intimacy, closeness; how we seek true connection with the inner self and the other. –Ilias Georgiadis
Over.State is auto-biographical work, but it is not mentioned in your statement where you describe it as depicting the story of a young and lost person. It’s effective at making us think about more universal connections, but it also introduces some kind of distance, as if you take a step back from yourself – like a layer between “ you’s “. Is that something that you also did while photographing? In how much did you and that “young and lost person” intersect in that moment?
Yes, you mentioned some pivotal aspects of my mentality regarding how I wanted for the work to exist and reflect in this way of experiencing the pictures and especially how the viewer will connect with the work. So yes, I wish for someone to connect and feel close to the work in a special way so even if you realize that the pictures have some pure autobiographical elements inside, at the end I want for them to be free and take their own path, and like this, you could feel more comfortable as a viewer to make your own stories, your own interpretations and eventually to see that it is not about someone else’s stories, it’s about yours as well. For me this is the most important when you look at the pictures, to see a part from yourself inside, to make connections with your own experiences and mysteries. Universal connections, and a distance which I think is a way to avoid being too literal while creating a distance-taking a step back- and in this way you create space for the viewer to enter, dive deep and feel comfortable. But, when it comes to the moments of taking the pictures I prefer to be as much as close as possible to the experience and the pure emotional state of the encounter. I feel freer in this way and also it creates the necessary connection and mutual trust. Maybe sometimes I am taking actually some distance from the experience just because in my head possible pictures are passing by but no, I think th
You’ve worked on Over.State for nearly a decade. I’m guessing that it hasn’t been a static experience. In how much has this work shaped who you are now, and how have you evolved the work as you were changing with time?
No, it has not been a static experience at all. The work shaped a lot who I am now in terms of getting experience both artistically and professionally and you can improve some aspects of yourself that could eventually help you. And for sure, when you work on this long-term condition the pictures become an essential part of yourself and sometimes you become attached. But on the other hand, it is easier to edit the work with more distance over time. Another thing that I find crucial is that when you are into this state of slowly showing and exposing the work-not on its final state- you are learning to appreciate all types of feedback. And I find it really beautiful how constructive feedback could give you a sense of direction or maybe let’s say that it could give you hints on what to avoid. Also, when you change over time –for example in my case- you are learning to be more patient and to have a better relationship with time. In addition, I also find it extremely interesting when time passes by and you slowly realizing how and maybe why a work ends. I mean how, when and why you decide to put full stops to long-term works. And of course work that is created with this nature and on this basis is something let’s say organic-or dynamic- something that changes shapes, evolves over time and slowly progresses to its final state, which for me it the book form.
Can you elaborate on your use of the written word in your photographs?
I used to be a writer, before starting taking pictures. I was mainly writing small stories, poems and even just random words I liked. I had many notebooks full of notes taken during a period of time that involved various changes on my emotional states. Also, after I started with photography I still continued to write mainly as a healing process so to comprehend stories and encounters I had when I as developing “Over.State”. In addition, sometimes I used to write notes that could reflect my understanding of the pictures and my vision of the whole process. Later, when I was editing my work for a project, I tried to work with these notes on a visual manner. I liked how they create some kind of subtle voice or a background melody that goes together with the pictures and gives you some hints so to make connections or maybe associations, but they work visually and they are not descriptive or really accurate. They are placed in a way where you are encouraged to make your own interpretations, if you want to. And also for example in the book, I like how they bring balance to the rhythm.
I recently saw Sally Mann’s “Battlefields” prints where she used and introduced imperfections in her collodion work – and so scratches on the plate for instance transform into bullets flying through the woods. There is too much dust on your photographs for it to be unintentional and at the same time I don’t sense the same level of control in the process than in Mann’s prints. Can you say something about your approach in the darkroom and how it came about?
I really like film accidents and mistakes that could happen. When you see all these marks on the pictures, they happened because I used to live with the negatives for a long time as I did not want to archive them and so on. I was really obsessed with looking at the negatives. Sometimes, I also wanted to create accidents with full control over the process so I tried various things. For me, this kind of materiality-the one that transcends into the picture- is important, especially because in my work I try to convey and talk about some personal and interpersonal moments of vulnerability and imperfection. And to me all those marks help to add this extra thin layer that express this same thing. A melody that metaphorically describes how we come in peace with our inevitable mortality.
I asked a Dutch intern to comment on my selection for this Lenscratch “Greek week”. Her first reaction was “They all look so very Greek…”. Do you think there is such a thing as “an image being very Greek”, and if so, what would that mean?
No, I am not sure that there is such thing. Maybe some kind of Mediterranean temperament? I don’t really know but I don’t agree with this approach. Each person has its own unique path and voice and I am not really fond of this type of approaches and categorizations based on regional criteria.
Finally, what’s next for you?
Well Over.State launched just a few weeks ago at Unseen Amsterdam, released by Blow Up Press (Warsaw). Because of that we are planning to make some presentations for the book and I am also preparing my second solo exhibition in Rome that will feature a lot of prints, a site-specific installation for the book but also some new and unpublished work.
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