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Let There Be Light

Interview By Alexia Amvrazi | July 21st, 2022 about MYRMIΔΟNES to Greece-is.com

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In an ode to his native island of Aegina, the photographer talks to Greece Is about its people, its light, and the experiences that shaped his book.

It took 20 years and over 2000 photos for Dimitris Vlaikos to decide it was time to place the soul of his work into the body of a beautiful hard-cover coffee table book that could grace homes around the world.

Titled “Myrmidones” after the name given to the inhabitants of his native Aegina (the introduction aptly explains the various possibilities of where the name originates), the book is composed of images depicting an extraordinary blend of local characters, landscapes and everyday details. The book is mostly anthropocentric, because Vlaikos has honed the art of capturing his subjects’ personal essence without guidance, a talent that has gained him a great reputation as a portrait artist and numerous assignments to photograph well known personalities.

 

Leafing through the book was a deeply touching experience. The way in which the photographer has captured the essence of his subjects – human or not – makes it an ode of sorts to his home island, rich in emotion, but characterized by stark realism.

Vlaikos spends half of the year in Aegina, chiefly during the summer months, and the rest of his time travels to and fro between various work projects. By creating this book, it seems as if he has established an unbreakable bond with the Saronic island’s people, land and elements, regardless of where he finds himself.

It’s apparent by looking at your book that you harbor a great love for your island.

There are amazing people living there, and it is multifaceted in a way that I’ve rarely witnessed elsewhere. Also, what I love about Aegina is that you can be sitting at a café where there’s a minister drinking coffee and at the table next to him, a fisherman – and the waiter will treat each of them with the same courtesy – or the same rudeness! Some people have described the island as ataxic. You feel and see that.

I think that has a lot to do with the fact that most of the island is flat – so all houses are on the same level, and everyone has the same access and right to light. It’s the same with the sea. There aren’t some beaches that are more exclusive than others, anyone can go to any beach, or rock, and swim. Overall, Aegina seems to bring out a life force in people, and if you’re the kind of person that wants to evolve, it offers you that possibility.”

How did the book project evolve?

 

The Myrmidones reached a very high level of civilization in antiquity thanks to the elements of their land – the rock, the light, the sea, the raw materials, their drive to create. And until today, these elements remain essentially the same. So the book was my way of juxtaposing the Myrmidones of the past with those of today.

I also wanted to create a book that is like an art object, a beautiful memento to have in one’s house. I put a lot of care into every aspect – including the use of only black ink, which is very rare. I collaborated with a very good friend, the graphic artist Dimitris Makaratzis, who created the cover, as well as Despina Giannouli, who wrote the texts (in Greek and English) and is my wife and writes and directs theatre plays. My professor Vasilis Artikos, whose exhibition “In drum and dance at the rock-cut churches of Lalibela” is currently on show the Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens, provided much advice and support, as well as other close friends.

How does the light of Aegina and influence your work?

 

In my research, I centered on the various elements of light. [In the book, Despoina Giannouli writes: “Thanks to the geomorphology of the island, almost all of its inhabitants can savor the light from sunrise to sunset. The paspara, the white stone and the fine-grained soil reflect the sun’s rays intensifying the colors of nature.”]

 

It’s not by chance that Nikos Kazantzakis lived there for 20-30 years, or Giannis Moralis, for most of his life, or Christos Kapralos, or the poet Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke, and they all produced their work there – it wasn’t their place for holidays but for creative work. And today the island is home to over 100 artists, so this land, and especially its light has something special that has drawn so many creators from antiquity until the present day. Light is my tool, it’s what made me want to evolve my art.

Apart from light, what do you feel are the other strong elements that inspired this work?

I think the energy of the land plays a significant role, but that’s not something that I can define with words. In the book’s introduction to the origin of the name Myrmidones, one of the ways they’re defined is that they were “the people of the “myriad vibrations,” as Aegina was considered to be a region of strong and sacred energy vibrations, a place fertile for spiritual development.

 

How did you put the book together?

An important part of this book is the rhythm one follows as one turns the pages. I wanted it to create in the viewer a musical rhythm, a transition from image to image through a story of sorts, like a journey.

Hand of a farmer, Mesagros. © Dimitris Vlaikos / "Myrmidones" book cover. © Dimitris Vlaikos

What will become of the rest of the photos you’ve taken?

They will remain in my archives, and maybe I’ll use them in future. I have a space in my studio/gallery space in Aegina where, upon appointment, one can come and see exhibits.

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Central distribution of “Myrmidones” is at “Lixnari Aegina” Bookstore. E-mail: lixnari@otenet.gr. Tel: +30 22970 26424. Shipments are made throughout Greece and abroad.


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MYRMIDONES photo-book release

MYRMIDONES_dimitris_vlaikos_photo"MYRMIDONES" is the imprint of Dimitris Vlaikos' search on the island of Aegina for the last 20 years.
Focusing on people, the photographer walks a path of observation and understanding of the elements composing the place where he was born and raised.
Light, a key tool in his work, turns into an object of study in terms of its effect on the character, perception, creativity and course of life, both of the island's inhabitants and of himself. Through his lens he wishes to discover how his experiences have become the memory which influences and shapes his choices, his perspective and the aesthetic approach to his work.
The images in the book present moments from the daily life of the inhabitants, portraits of people interacting with their environment, and all those elements that make up the culture which inspires, challenges and embraces the Myrmidons of yesterday and today.

 

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Myrmidones_photo-book_vlaikosCredits

Photos © Dimitris Vlaikos

Texts © Despina Giannouli

Text editing: Natassa Ntouma

Translation: Doris Brumma

Design: Dimitris Vlaikos

Film scanning: Filmora Lab

Executive editor: Tasos Papacharalambous

Print: Smart Print

Published by: Dimitris Vlaikos Gallery

ISBN 978-618-00-3754-8

 

Album features

Edition: 1st edition

Cover: Hardcover

Number of pages: 178 pages

Number of pictures: 89 pictures

Dimensions: 28cm* 29cm

Language: Greek and English

 

Central distribution : “Lixnari Aegina” Bookstore

Contact details and orders:

e-mail: lixnari@otenet.gr

phone number: +30 22970 26424

(Shipments throughout Greece and abroad)

 

https://youtu.be/oRceXQTAJTE

 


Soul Project - Ατομική έκθεση φωτογραφίας Δημήτρη Βλάικου

Ένα πρωτοποριακό project του φωτογράφου Δημήτρη Βλάικου που ως σκοπό έχει την  αποτύπωση καθημερινών χαρακτήρων που συνθέτουν την ψυχή της  πόλης της Αίγινας ως λαογραφικά στοιχεία της περιοχής. Για τις ανάγκες αυτού του project στήθηκε ένα υπαίθριο φωτογραφικό studio στο κέντρο της αγοράς της Αίγινας, οπού 120  χαρακτήρες φωτογραφήθηκαν σε τρεις ημέρες. Τα 120 πορτραίτα θα εκτεθούν στο Λαογραφικό μουσείο Αίγινας  στις 23-­‐09-­‐11 και η έκθεση θα διαρκέσει μέχρι τις 30-­09-­11. Ντόπιοι και επισκέπτες θα έχουν την ευκαιρία να δουν από μια άλλη οπτική τους καθημερινούς ανθρώπους γύρω τους, τόσο ως μορφές  αλλά και ως  ψυχές. Τις ψυχές της πόλης.

Soul Project Eίναι ο τίτλος της έκθεσης φωτογραφίας του Δημήτρη Βλάικου που θα φιλοξενηθεί στο Λαογραφικό Μουσείο Αίγινας 23 – 30 Σεπτεμβρίου.

Στα 29 του χρόνια και μετά από δεκαετή αναζήτηση στην τέχνη της φωτογραφίας, ο καλλιτέχνης έρχεται να καταθέσει στην πρώτη αυτή ατομική του έκθεση, την προσωπική οπτική πάνω στον κοινό μας τόπο την Αίγινα. Φιλοδοξία του να αποδείξει πως ο φακός μπορεί να αποτυπώνει την εσωτερικότητα, επικεντρωμένος στην ουσία και τη ψυχική διάσταση προσώπων και πραγμάτων, πέρα από τις φόρμες.

Οι Ψυχές της Πόλης βρίσκονται για τον Δημήτρη Βλάικο παντού, σε ότι τυχαίο και καθημερινό, σε κάθε φιγούρα και αντικείμενο.  Έφτασε ως εκεί από την έμμονη παρατήρηση αυθεντικών μορφών και χαρακτήρων που όσο πάει και λιγοστεύουν. Φυσιογνωμίες αναλλοίωτες στο χρόνο σε φόρμες γεμάτες ελληνικότητα, που αν τις απομονώσεις μπορούν να σε ταξιδέψουν στο χρόνο.