Assignment 2: People and Activity
Prepared by: Theodora Grivopoulou, 512340
Photography 2: People and Place
June 15, 2015
The objective of this assignment is to plan and execute a set of 10 final images of people in some form of activity. I have chosen to depict different people at the same single event. I should concentrate especially on two aspects: on telling moments, and on ‘explaining’ the activity by choosing the viewpoint, framing and timing to make the actions as intelligible as possible.
I decided to present an authentic folk parade taking place in my hometown, Mesolongi1. During this festival, the male residents of my town are divided into two “clans”: the so-called “Armatomenoi” (Carabinieri, Corps of carabiniers) and the “Kavalareoi” (Horsemen). The “Armatomenoi” are dressed in old, traditional costumes while the “Kavalareoi” are usually young ones that come to the festival on horseback carrying on their back one or even more long candles as a votive offering to be lighten up once they reach the monastery. It is remarkable that the instruments (the zurna and the davul) that accompany the festival and the parade have remained unchanged until this very day.2 This was an event that I used to dislike during my childhood because of the ear-piercing noise of the music. At that time I could not connect with the historical importance of this event and this ecstatic festivity.
My storytelling begins with the opening of the parade, a horseman carrying the flag (image 1) with the church on the background, both important symbols. Two men from different clans (image 2) shake hands, paying respect to each other while feeling blessed to be healthy for one more year. The parade has started and the man’s pride starts erupting (image 3), “I am here just like my father and grandfather used to be”, seems to claim. It is essential to have the new generation (image 4) in this event; they are the ones that will carry out this tradition. For the very beginning, the gipsies (image 5) have always been the musicians of this event. They follow the clans and since this is a family business their children follow them almost everywhere. This boy kept asking me to photograph him. The monotony of their seriousness is broken by the smile of a child. Another group of musicians (image 6) are waiting for their time to come and start performing. Each clan has their gipsies’ music band (image 7). Men are dancing (image 8) during the parade, they open theirs arms as if they want to hold the whole world. Since this parade is also a memorial service (image 9) a tray with koliva (boiled wheat covered with sugar, a ritual food used during the mnemosyna), is being carried throughout the whole time till they reach the Monastery. A man representing the older generation (image 10) is looking ahead with pride and wisdom.
“The camera looks both ways: in picturing the subject,
you are also picturing a part of yourself.
In other words you are a mirror.”
Rick Sammon, Photographer 3
In this assignment my vision has been intuitively directed by my memory. Can we reframe memory? Our individual memory, our perception of our past, it was this relationship between past and present that I wanted to explore. I have been looking for a reason to connect with my roots and my ancestors’ tradition. Memory is taken as both an active process and a dynamic practice in a constantly dialectical relationship between then and now, connecting within its spaces the past, the present and future. The act of reframing generates new perspectives that enable new combinations of imagery and meaning.4
Documenting this festival may be an ongoing personal project since this is the second year I am photographing it. This repetition some kind of a redo process was like a practice-based research since my style had already being explored in the past. My aim was to present an authentic account of this parade while the big challenge was to convert the beauty of this event into my photographs. If you can hear the music, if you can feel the pride of these men, then it may be that my work has captured the festive emotions and the grandeur that I have experienced.
The picture-story involves a joint operation of the brain, the eye and the heart. The objective is to depict the content of some event whish is in the process of unfolding, and to communicate impressions.5 The persistent question was how could I work in such a crowded place with so many people, so much noise and above all such powerful emotions exploding? Almost everything was grabbing my attention but at the same time everything was moving fast. I kept asking myself “what do you want to communicate?”
I knew my subject, I had pre-visualized my approach and I kept working close enough. Distance was a crucial decision for this project; I had to be close enough to my subject. Whenever possible I kept changing angle and perspective in order to best tell my story. I am still learning to see light and understand its possible lighting scenarios. The parade took place in the evening and this was to my advantage since I could control easier the situation.
“The truth is that regardless of how much
we know about anything,all we really
have to offer – in full integrity – is ourselves.”
Alessandra Cave, Photographer 6
The final outcome pleases me and I find that I have managed to capture the atmosphere of the event. Some of my pictures are close enough just as photographer Robert Capa had advised us to do, meaning to become involved and even intimate with our subject. My wish was to pay respect to my theme through my own personal glance. I believe that there is a coherent style and the photos genuinely invite the viewer to wander. It has been quite tough to finalize the editing. It is a slow process that demands careful thought and often benefit from the opinion of others, both professional and non-professionals.7
To select the final photos from the larger body of work I needed to pick out the ones that were my favorites. I had to determine exactly what made each image successful. I have reviewed my work enough but the final decision was based on the prints, which did not turn out, as I wanted. I had exaggerated with the shadows in the post editing (Lightroom) as I was probably carried away by my obsession to create an effect of aging in my images. I needed this to enhance the sense of past memories. When I received the prints I wasn’t pleased because the black was not black anymore, it looked like gray. I have now corrected the digital files and after receiving my tutor’s feedback, I may order another set of prints to compare. I am very pleased that my composition was carefully considered and no cropping was needed. I try not to self-sensor and allow me time and space for experimentation. I have to learn to control the post processing possibilities and avoid embellishing my vision. My research was based on the Greek photographer Costas Balafas (1917-2011)8 who had documented along with other projects this festival. His photographs taken in the 1960 and 1970 are authentically depicting the event. To make this research I had to visit the Benaki Museum’s Photographic Archives Department9.
In recent years, many photographers are photographing this event. I have seen the work of two of them, Vasilis Artikos10 is a local great photographer with a great eye and vision and he has been working on this project for many years. He has combined this event with an annual Photo Festival and this attracts even more photographers. One of them is Vrettakos Alexandros11 who has a very poetic ability to see. He approaches his subjects with love and care. It has been very crucial and meaningful for me to have seen and evaluate their work. I have used a photographer of the past and two contemporary ones, which seems very symbolic.
Reference & Bibliography
- From the catalogue of ATHENS PHOTO FESTIVAL 2015, Hellenic Centre of Photography, May 2015
- The decisive moment, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Editions Verne of Paris, 1952
- Shooting with Soul, Alessandra Cave, Quarry Books, 2013
- Behind the image, Anna Fox/Natasha Caruana, Ava Publishing 2012
- https://youtu.be/A7OlP1TvpHI (Costas Balafas)
 The Monastery of Agios Simeon1 (Ai-Simios, as it is called by the locals) is found 8 km from Mesolongi. This monastery has great historical importance for the locals as it was the meeting point for the residents of Mesolongi after the Exodus in April 10th, 1826. However, the Exodus was unsuccessful, most people were killed and only few managed to get to the monastery and then escape in the mountains. The Monastery of Agios Simeon celebrates twice a year, on February 2nd and on the weekend of the Holy Spirit (movable festival, usually in June). In fact, on the festival of the Holy Spirit, there is a large celebration with a parade leading to this Monastery and overnight traditional dancing on the yard outside the monastery.