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Ioanna Sakellaraki: Aidos

Work / Photography

Photographer Ioanna Sakellaraki’s Aidos series explores the importance of shame in Greek culture

“With regards to Greek culture, shaming is a lifelong tradition for positioning someone in society,” says photographer Ioanna Sakellaraki about her decision to focus on the emotion of shame for her series Aidos. “I felt this was a big part of my education while growing up back home. I was aware of it then but was only able to observe it while living abroad and visiting the country sporadically. Photography helped me question this and better understand it.”

In Greece, Ioanna tells us, “Shame on you” is an everyday feature of the language, and the emotion is used as moral framing that everyone is expected to live within. For instance, the decision not to dress in black for 40 days after a loved one passes away is a point of shame in contemporary Greece, deeply rooted to ancient mourning traditions, Ioanna explains. She says. “I personally came across this concept, in a more solid way, when my father passed away and I was asked to respond to a cultural pattern as part of my tradition,” Ioanna tells us. “I was asked to grieve in ways that did not fit my emotions. So, photography became my choice for emotional expression.”

Shot on medium format and with a focus on darker tonnes (created while scanning the negatives), a sense of mourning and loss is often present in Ioanna’s images. Many of her shots lack a significant subject, instead focusing on spaces, gaps and the missing. “I wanted to communicate the ideas of struggle and acceptance by creating harmonic compositions inspiring simplicity,” Ioanna tells It’s Nice That. “I think embracing simplicity and acknowledging the individual struggle is a very big step towards an honest life with or without art in it.”

As well as loss, the series deals with areas of shame in domestic settings, from the expectation (largely levelled at women) that a home must been clean and tidy, a husband must be cared for and that a wife should be beautiful and well-presented. “The series revolves around the ideas of how we occasionally feel frustration or shame to accept that we are someone other than who we are expected to be and how we compare ourselves rather than embracing our true nature,” she says. “I find that this is the analogy with society itself. We are struggling to respond to what is presented to us as the right thing to do. We occasionally question things but we always find it hard to break from the norm.”

The title of the series, Aidos refers to the name of the Greek goddess of shame, and many of the images feature symbols – like nets, horses, and pomegranates – that nod to Greek mythology. The myth of Demeter and Persephone, for example, can be seen in a smashed pomegranate. Persephone, Ioanna reminds us, has to spend six months in the underworld with her kidnapper Hades after eating six pomegranate seeds. Rather than the kidnapping, it’s the connection between Persephone and her grieving mother that for her picks up the co-dependent family relationships encouraged within Greek culture. “I think that the great thing about mythology is that it interconnects universal meanings like loss, trauma, love, death, beauty so it can speak to wider audiences around the world no matter their origin.”

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Ioanna Sakellaraki: Aidos

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Ioanna Sakellaraki: Aidos

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Ioanna Sakellaraki: Aidos

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Ioanna Sakellaraki: Aidos

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Ioanna Sakellaraki: Aidos

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Ioanna Sakellaraki: Aidos

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Ioanna Sakellaraki: Aidos

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Ioanna Sakellaraki: Aidos

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Ioanna Sakellaraki: Aidos

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Ioanna Sakellaraki: Aidos

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Ioanna Sakellaraki: Aidos

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Ioanna Sakellaraki: Aidos

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Ioanna Sakellaraki: Aidos