Amalia Serafimaki has the ability to stop time. In her shots, especially the underwater ones, we could be anywhere and at any time, but the where and when no longer matter.
The Athens-based photographer tries in every shot to capture the immensity and strength of nature, as opposed to the fragile beauty of man. We are taken into a world where the bodies of young women merge with angular rocks, hide among the leaves until they plunge beneath the surface of the sea where nothing makes sense anymore, where everything is slower, muffled and far from the world.
Amalia Serafimaki will be one of the photographers on show at ImageNation Milan, from 24 to 30 September at the Luciana Matalon Foundation. For the occasion, we had the chance to ask her a few questions and let her tell us how her passion for photography began, what she wants to tell with her shots and what we will find at the exhibition.
Read the interview below!
How you started approaching photography. Is there a particular moment that you remember?
I remember seeing a camera for the first time when I was around 10 years old and being mesmerised by it. From that point onwards I had a huge desire of visiting the world through my own lens. I don’t think there was ever a time in which I was not into photography. I remember buying instant cameras and getting lost inside the viewfinder. The world was effortlessly processed through this abstract non-verbal way of seeing. I could introduce my own concepts and experiences through colours and textures, and growing up I never stopped to do so.
Describe your photographic style. How did you get to this point in your career?
I exclusively use natural light in my photos. I tend to have a clear pre conseptualised idea of what I will shoot, aiming to combine my own direction of the scene with the unpredictability of nature. Manipulating natural light allows for a condition which is here-and-now. I work flexibly to adapt to the natural light condition which I believe comes from the deep respect I have toward nature. After years of experimentation, trial and error and observations I am a self-taught and I think that the only key to one’s artistic identity is introspection.
We are bombarded with other artist’s works, many sources of inspiration and a variety of very attractive ways of thinking that can become distracting and frankly can divert us away from what we have to offer as individual artists. I have been lucky in being able to listen to my own aesthetics while developing a personal style, which is exactly what got me to where I am now. This mindful awareness during this process of experimentation is something I can reflect on in retrospect, naturally, and is one of the defining elements of my artistic process.
What do you want to tell through your shots?
Nature has always been a great source of inspiration. I believe that the human form is both contrasting and harmonious to the natural elements. It is contrasting because we have evolved far away from it, and harmonious because it is our original home. I ask my models to close their eyes and focus on their surroundings and most of the time a narrative takes course on its own. I guess that this sense of familiarity to the natural is what I want to reveal through my shots. In my photographs the human skin is juxtaposed to the rocks it is touching, the hair is following the water’s flow and the eyes are closed, letting go of all control while staying present. Additionally, I aim to capture the human state of solitude and fragility which is for me both beautifully symbolised and experienced inside the element of water. The surface of the water resembles a portal to a secret, more private world. Below the surface of water, one is away from distractions and with limited ability to monitor one’s movements. All is slower. The less tension the body has and the less active the mind is, the more poetic the image becomes. The body is contrasting its lively surroundings in the passivity and exposing vulnerability by the natural elements. Thus, a powerful yet sensitive state arises, that which a person exposes their true self by letting go and embracing a stillness of the mind.
What do you think is the most important thing to consider when taking underwater shots?
The most important part is to connect with the model in order to synchronise our ideas and familiarise them with the purpose of each shot. There are so many symbols that can take place while manipulating natural elements. Also, each model has different precious characteristics to offer. Thus I have the responsibility to detect them and combine them. It is very important to discuss the shooting before diving in. Underwater portraiture is a beautiful choreography based on mutual trust. When diving, your experience is shifted from being literal to being symbolic. Without gravity, everything falls slower and silent. The frame somehow is now composed of how the model feels inside their thoughts and body. One relies on the few seconds one has, and the fact that they can’t see or speak clearly elevates the senses creating a dance-like interaction. Also, what I am driven the most is this border of water and air. The surface of the sea is like a giant mirror, a portal or a veil. Therefore, once I encourage the model to sense this range of symbolism, their body is invited to give away its own approach.
For you and the shots you take, how important is the editing phase?
Although I do not heavily retouch, post-production most of the times has to do with elevating the surrealistic elements of the photograph.
When shooting underwater, gravity is more complex and I much often guide the model to play around with the surface of the water as if gravity comes from somewhere else.
This is suggested knowing that afterwards I will rotate the image so that the spectator is offered a more indirect view of reality. A body dropping to the bottom of the sea can be just as easily perceived as a body bounced back from another world (As seen in «Portal»). Also, most of my photographs are black and white or have muted colors in order to demonstrate a more discreet, low key presence.
What will those who decide to visit the ImageNation Milan exhibition in September see?
ImageNation Milan involves a unique collection of the most inspiring, established and creative photographers on an international level. The spectator will be offered the chance to appreciate portraits that are surreal, earthy, dreamlike and also diverse. This group exhibition will provide a variety of perspectives coming from many different artists. Each artwork stands beautifully on its own, yet somehow it is able to create a dialogue with the rest thus making this exhibition coherent and multi-dimensional.