FACULTY GUEST BLOGGER: Niko j. kallianiotis
Niko J. Kallianiotis: The duality of my life’s trajectory makes my visual identity a fluid one. My formative years were spent in Greece, but for all of my adulthood I’ve lived in the United States. Because of my hybrid background I view the world and my surrounding environs from two different perspectives, both culturally and socially. This circumstance has heightened my sensibilities and created an uncertain identity crisis. My cultural and social values have been challenged; feelings of alienation instigated the desire to attempt and recapture and reevaluate my identity. Expatriation was not a personal decision, but my current photographic language is.
The above image, titled “Censo” and it currently exhibited in Capture 12 Gallery in Phoenix Arizona and at PhotoPlace Gallery in Middleburry Vermont, from my most recent project, “Bittersweet Apple” For this project, I investigated the Greek-American Diaspora in Astoria, New York. This is a diverse setting that was once the center of Hellenism in North America. As a youngster, I resented being in Astoria and during my first visit twenty-five-years ago, I often tried to find ways to escape and move back to Greece. Everything seemed foreign to me, even the people who shared my own heritage. I missed my friends, my extended family, my neighborhood in Athens, everything. What I expected to be familiar was actually quite unfamiliar, regardless of the reminders of Greek culture that the area offered. That environment, its diversity, even the faces I encountered in the community, only added to my sense of alienation. There were Greeks here, but they were not “my” Greeks.
The images from this project reflect a fresh encounter with what survives of the Greek culture in Astoria, explores the symbols and cultural traditions, and the mingling of memories and an evolved perspective. I photographed intuitively and was drawn to images reminiscent to my homeland and images that simultaneously depicted my alienation, and desire to discover a sense of cultural belonging, to the place I once resented.
I photographed intuitively and was drawn to images reminiscent to my homeland and images that simultaneously depicted my alienation, and desire to discover a sense of cultural belonging, to the place I once resented. For this particular project I worked lightly and in general I don’t like equipment getting in my way, usually one camera and one lens does the job. The camera is the vessel, not the destination. My goal with these images is to make the viewer connect with photographs. I believe my feelings and memories are depicted in every single photo, but albeit of this, I also want the work to be open ended and have different meanings for everyone; I want to the viewer to create his or her own story, memory, and history. I believe this is to be invaluable with creating work.
As in teacher, my best advice to students is to make it personal. I can’t overstate how important this is to my work, and I am a firm believer that it should be the canon for every photographer. Photograph something you care about, something that moves your heart, because if you don’t have the connection, you will not be able to transcend the viewer in the photograph and your work. Photographers fall into the trap of photographing subject matters that “sell” or are popular in order to “break into the art market.” I don’t necessarily subscribe to that but if that is the direction a photographer wants to take, fine. But make it personal. It must be something you care and feel strongly about, and find that angle that will make it unique. Make pictures from your heart and by doing so all the obstacles that come along the way will organically be overcome, and vision and photograph will come to harmony. When I look at work I want to see something that I will remember. I don’t want to see what you see, I want to see how you feel.
One last thing I want to suggest to students is to participate in exhibitions, read, share your work on social media, connect with other local artists, and participate in the community. Above all, make it a habit to create work every day for as long as you can.
Publications and Features
- NYT Lens Blog : http://tinyurl.com/mk8t9gw
- The Image Deconstructed: http://tinyurl.com/o7xlcf9
- Top Photography Films: http://tinyurl.com/ot6cre6