November 11, 2022
Photography by Marilena Filaiti
Interview by Karen Ghostlaw Pomarico
Marilena Filaiti is living proof of the importance that photography can make in your life. It was an enlightening experience for Marilena, giving her more understanding of herself and the world she exists in.
Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Marilena's father worked for the United Nations and was appointed to work in Africa where he lived with his wife for eleven years and where Marilena was born. They returned to Greece when Marilena was four years old, and her mother was pregnant with her brother, who was born in Athens. Both of their parents had a cosmopolitan upbringing. Marilena’s father, a descendant from the Egyptian Greeks and her mother from Istanbul, with a lineage of Greek descent, felt it important to pass their culture and heritage to their children.
Marilena fell in love with the man she then married at a very young age and they soon started their family, a value important to Marilena, a legacy from her Mother. Caring and parenting three children created a demanding life that challenged Marilena, taking on many different jobs along the way to help make a good home for her family. Marilena ultimately took a job that gave her exposure and a chance to learn about marketing utilizing specialized multimedia tools that related to photography. These tools and their applications gave Marilena the inspiration to take up and explore the “Art of Photography”. Fascinated by Photography, she bought her first camera and started experimenting with her new tool, it wasn't long before she entered her first photography contest and was hooked.
She decided to penetrate the world of photography and learn as much as she could. Her first teacher, Tolis Chatzignatiou, inspired her first steps and for three years he supported Marilena's development as a photographer. Tolis Chatzignatiou taught Marilena the principles of photography and how to clearly choose for herself what she wishes to include in her frame. She made many educational trips with the photographic group “Routes”, even getting close to her father's birthplace, an experience powerful for Marilena.
Marilena was thirsty to learn more and more about photography, to go deeper and deeper, to be able to create meaningful photographs of her own. Marilena wanted to expand her knowledge and understanding of photography and immersed herself in photography workshops led by Lukas Vasilikos in October 2021. He has been an excellent teacher and mentor to Marilena, guiding her in her search within herself to find what she wants to express, while exposing her to new ideologies, working with his direction to create powerful sensational images that have much meaning. This motivating and influential experience gave birth to Marilena's first solo project, AWAKENING INSTINCTS, through which Marilena shares her insightful presentation of her project and her photography. We wish her much inspiration in her quest to create powerful intimate images that speak from the heart.
“For the first time I saw my work complete. I continue today to grow personally and as a photographer by studying with Lukas. He keeps pushing me to work on new projects that allow me to express myself. Less need for words, more opportunities for visual inspiration.”
IN CONVERSATION WITH MARILENA FILAITI
THE PICTORIAL LIST: Marilena, tell us about Athens and what life in Greece has brought to your work AWAKENING INSTINCTS. We see how important your family members are to your work, tell us what inspiration they bring to this collection
MARILENA FILIATI: Greece is a unique country worth visiting. Athens is a city with its beauties and its difficulties. Like all over the world, the pandemic touched us here, where photography became an excellent outlet for me. The pandemic directly connected the project with my inner world. Many photographs were taken in different parts of Greece during this period.
There is nothing more important to me than my family and my home. My friends are also family. My teacher Lukas Vasilikos urged me to dig deeper and express photographically how important my family members are to me.
TPL: Tell us about this project, Marilena; how it came about, what you were looking for, what you finally discovered. What surprised you?
MF: When the workshop started, I had no idea what the outcome would be. Step by step we started to build this project gradually through the course of the study cycle. When I saw my photos on the wall I was impressed. I didn't know this side of myself. The most important reason besides my love for photography is that I don't have to talk too much with my images. That's how I've wanted to express myself for the last few years. I was surprised by the result because I finally managed to have a meaningful conversation through this project.
TPL: You told us how important your teacher here was to you for this project, how you worked side by side. What were his influences on you, what were the gifts he gave you. What was his role as you created this project?
MF: Master Lukas Vasilikos is an experienced and inspiring photographer himself, quite strict with himself but with unlimited patience and acceptance for his students. This characteristic of his allowed me to be inspired by him and many world photographers. Lukas also dared me to express myself freely and personally during our classes. He led me through the photographic process accepting and correcting any technical difficulties I had, while supporting me to move forward to my personal artistic identity through paths I admit, I didn't know I could take.
TPL: There is depth in your shadows, creating intimate spaces for your subjects. Tell us about these shadows, darkness and what they represent in your photographs.
MF: Within those shadows are important gifts of awareness. I like to create new worlds; escaping from reality. I like after instinctively creating them, to revisit my works as a viewer and have them transform into new stories. I listen to my silence and find the peace of mind I seek.
TPL: Your colors are deep and saturated, adding to the depth of space and creating thought provoking connections to your subject matter. Tell us about the role color plays in these images.
MF: I originally worked mostly in black and white and through my work with Lukas, I discovered color. I saw color as a tool for individual expression. It transformed the world around me into something else, something colorful, something much more dreamy, lyrical, focusing inward, allowing me to express my deeper self. Saturation is a medium that transports me to these other worlds. The bright color seems fake to me and does not represent my own reality.
TPL: When you began this journey of self discovery, where did you start? Why?
MF: I started this journey of self exploration with themes familiar to me, close to me, subjects accessible to me, so that I could venture deeper to see them in another dimension. an imaginary transformation of them. Thus my one son was transformed into a creature of my imagination, he effortlessly played this role since he trustingly allowed me to create another reality by "rebirthing" him through my photograph. My daughter, seen through another gaze that perhaps she herself did not initially accept, as the unconventional realistic image that she was, but she quickly realized how redemptive the freedom of a different gaze is. My little son, who grew up through our collaboration, agrees that the result has rewarded us both. My friends showed me the same trust by posing and allowing me to play freely with the lens.
I like to create new worlds; escaping from reality. I listen to my silence and find the peace of mind I seek.
TPL: What new discoveries have you made while doing this project? Has this project been completed?
MF: Expression itself is a great discovery for me who doesn't like words much and is more of a sensory person. That is to speak through a medium that I share with so many people, even globally, and to “say it all” through the common language of the Image. My work has now become synonymous with my existence and as I evolve, it will evolve too. Each new experience I experience motivates me to 'lock in' the moment. Our lives are made up of moments.
TPL: Can you recall that defining moment when you understood how to use photography to create what you wanted to say or see with your eyes, heart and soul? When you photograph, how much is instinct and spontaneity programmed? Do you pose your subjects?
MF: When I realized that photography was a love for me and that I could express through it whatever I was hiding inside, I decided to leave my job to follow it in whatever path it took me. Because of my love for photography, I decided to only work in the field professionally.
There is absolutely no programming in the way I photograph, I work on impulse and instinct, I ‘shoot’ non-stop even if I don't have a camera at that moment. Of course this requires one to have acquired a solid technical base and to have incorporated it. I would say my impulsiveness has gotten me into trouble at times. However, when I work as a professional, I try to listen to the needs of the subject matter but always through the freedom of my personal view.
TPL: What are the lasting impressions you want to leave on the viewer, what is their 'Take Away'? What was yours?
MF: I have no intention of leaving a lasting impression on the viewer. Everyone is free to make whatever impression they wish based on their reading. I wish to converse and evoke emotions. My takeaway is to have a photograph I see speak to me.
TPL: Does the equipment you use help you achieve your vision in your photography? What camera do you use? Do you have a preferred lens/focal distance?
MF: So far it has been adequate. Currently I have developed a need to try even more sophisticated gear. I am on a quest. Initially I was shooting with my mobile phone. Then I was accompanied on my journey by a Nikon D3400, a Panasonic Lumix DC Vario with which I also shoot with in water, a Canon EOS R, and I have a collection of analogs, mostly old pieces. I've been trying different lenses and haven't settled on a recommended one yet.
TPL: What are some of your goals as an artist or photographer? Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?
MF: This journey is a journey of freedom for me. It's a journey that matters, the destination of which I myself will know in five years.
MF: “When I don't go out to photograph, I like to...
I like to travel, drive, walk with my friends, read and often enjoy my ‘solitude’.”