Untitled #2 from the series The Mourners, 2011
Lynette Letic interviews Melbourne based photographer, Georgia Metaxas.
Georgia Metaxas, currently working and living in Melbourne, is a photographer with an interest in the human condition and the manifestations of ritual, both cultural and personal. Georgia explores such themes through her photography, working predominantly in the genre of portraiture.
A daily ritual with Helen Sullivan, Thursday 9.30am, 2006
What has drawn you to document humans and their personal/cultural rituals? Is it an interest that has emerged through your photographic practice or something that you have considered prior to your projects?
My line of enquiry has definitely evolved alongside my practice. To begin with I had a relatively straightforward methodology and understanding of rituals. However gradually I have grown to view rituals in a more universal way.
I enjoy focusing on the manifestations of rituals as this can allow for multiple entry points, readings and interpretations. We all get a haircut, catch the train, sleep, come to terms with mortality and we all stand for a portrait. I may be selective and work within certain frameworks but am dealing with themes that we can all relate to.
Where do you shoot most of your work and how is that important to you?
I get most excited when working on a series where I can create a studio amongst the chaos of ‘real life’. I feel this is where I can achieve the level of tension that I am looking for. I enjoy constructing an image, taking just a slither of information and repeating it.
In the series In Transit for example, which was produced in New York in 2008. Like many photographers before me, I took to the subway. I discovered a single platform, unique in its lack of signage, advertising or hoardings, leaving me with a stage of sorts. A black background, a fluorescent light and whoever might stand before me. This allowed for formal studies to be made of the common experience of waiting for the train. I stood on that platform for two weeks making portraits of commuters.
Setting parameters within an arena that allows me to repeat those actions are key components of my methodology. I feel that by reducing the image to a single kernel of an idea, this can allow for the spontaneity of photography to emerge.
Does travel play a significant role in your practice?
I’m not quite sure how I’ve managed to, but I’ve traveled a lot. The places I go to do not always have a direct outcome in the form of a new project, however being in a new or different place is food for the mind and I consider it essential to my practice and general wellbeing. A photograph can be made anywhere, working and being in unfamiliar territory is something that I enjoy and one that helps me to continue to challenge any seemingly fixed notions that I may have.
Untitled #5 from the series Brides & Grooms, 2008
What process do you take to source the subjects for your work?
The ideas and concepts that I am interested in exploring for any given project, generally determine who will be invited to stand in the image before me. The subjects that appear in my work do however come from encounters in my day-to-day life, as this is the raw material that I draw on.
Consent is always requested and every effort is made to explain the project and my intentions to whoever might be deciding to take part. The location of the project however, often dictates the level at which I can do this. If I’m working out and about, paperwork is obviously more difficult to administrate. Alternatively, I sometimes I work alongside organisations as this in itself provides a functional working framework, allowing for a more formal process to take place.
Untitled #3 from the series Lower Your Ears, 2007
You seem to take on a very documentary approach with your photography, meanwhile it is evident that your work employs strong artistic intention. Can you explain the interest in both art and documentary practice and how your work aligns within these fields of photography?
Upholding the conventional notions of truth and likeness inherent to photographic portraiture is not my intention. It is unreasonable to think that a photograph can represent someone in their entirety. Rather, the people that sit for me take part in attempt to represent something bigger than the individual. I’m interested in analysing broader notions of the human condition, those that are often regarded as the tenets of art.
I hope that my approach helps the work I produce achieve, as Walker Evans would have it “a transcendent experience, something that surpasses the ordinary, even if it resembles the everyday.”
What or who are your main influences for your work?
Main influences have more than likely come from my first interactions with photography, and I find I continue to return to and enjoy the work of August Sanders, Diane Arbus and Walker Evans, for example. In terms of contemporary practitioners, Katy Grannan and Clare Strand are photographers whose work I find inspiring.
However, to claim that all of what influences me comes from photography would be false. Inspiration comes from all directions, spending time in galleries and museums plays a major part in my work and thinking. And then there are the more obvious things, like films, music and books.
Do you have any ongoing or upcoming shows/exhibitions?
My first series of portraits taken in 2004, Ikona Portraits is being shown for 12 months at the Immigration Museum in Melbourne. I consider this series a departure point in my arts practice, in that it was with this series that I began my fascination with portraiture.
To view more of Georgia’s work, please visit her website.
Lynette Letic is an emerging photographer based in Brisbane.