Photographer Constantinos Sofikitis spoke to The National Herald about his latest project. (Photo by Constantinos Sofikitis)
NEW YORK – Constantinos Sofikitis shared the details of his latest project, Marabou_Aegean, with The National Herald. Sofikitis is a professional photographer and member of the LensCulture society (Magnum Photos) successfully carrying on his family’s deep-rooted ties to photography, his greatest inspiration being his father, highly acclaimed Greek photographer Dimitris Sofikitis.
Of his project, Constantinos Sofikitis told TNH, “Marabou_Aegean is a journey to the inhabited islands of the Aegean composing of a historiography of emblematic individuals, represented through images and accompanying texts, with the aim of preserving and commemorating the true essence of each island.”
Among his honors, he was awarded first place in 2017 at the Sony World Photography Awards (Open, Street Photography category), was shortlisted for the title of Best Photographer in the same competition for the Street Photography category, and named Best Greek Photographer by Sony.
Sofikitis noted that “Marabou_Aegean sets out to uncover the untold stories of the people of the Aegean islands; observing the occupations at risk of becoming extinct and the local customs and traditions that are unique to each island.
“It is the inhabitants of these islands who embody the heart and soul of the Aegean. A collection of folks who aren’t simply linked together by a nickname, a rare talent and a characteristic gaze, but by the unique stories that form the identity of our Aegean. Diverse people whose common characteristic is their love for the place they call home, a passion to preserve its history and an endless longing for life.
“Through this project we seek to get to know these people, their faces weathered from the salt and honest gazes, and become part of their gripping stories told in the little traditional cafes (kafeneia) – spaces that are unfortunately becoming extinct and thus jeopardizing the existence of the many narratives that play out within them each day.
“The coffee table book that will emerge from this project, displaying the material collected from visiting around 70 inhabited islands of the Northeast Aegean, the Cyclades, the Sporades islands and the Dodecanese, will display a folklore identity since it serves to preserve fragments from the lives of the islanders. For this reason, there is a greater emphasis on the photographic depiction of these individuals within an environmental portrait. A form of narrative photography that manages to masterfully depict the individual’s personality whilst simultaneously revealing information about their past, long lost memories, and the history of the island itself.
“The main idea behind this project is a modern yet traditional documentation of the lives of the people living on the Aegean islands. Intertwining a narrative of words and printing the photographs on paper in the form of a coffee table book will help to ensure these unique individuals and what they stand for is preserved forever. Whilst the video recordings, thematically in the form of episodes as well as collectively in the form of a documentary, will allow for the reproduction of the material for both televised media and internet content.
“Finally, the material will be used wisely and distributed to be displayed at periodic exhibitions, museums and galleries. This project is aimed at an audience of all ages, however, a greater emphasis will be placed on a younger audience who via a visually modern layout, the use of video to be shared on social media along with the exhibits, will have the chance to completely immerse themselves in this experience of the Aegean, to discover its people and learn the history of this unique region in the most unedited and true-to-life way.
“Moreover, in partnership with Katerina Papadopoulou and her band Notio Toxo – one of the most well-known bands performing traditional music focused on sounds from the Aegean – a series of sound and video recordings will be created at unique locations across the Aegean islands – monasteries, caves, lighthouses or abandoned homes. Thus, incorporating traditional musical elements from each place with the aim of celebrating Greek heritage and culture as well as uncovering forgotten aspects of the Aegean.”
A sample of the individual episodes is available on the Marabou Narrations YouTube channel: shorturl.at/zDFM6.
When asked about how the global coronavirus pandemic has affected the project, Sofikitis told TNH, “Visits to the islands stopped for a while, like everything else, due to the situation, but for some time now I have been in the Aegean again to complete the portraits on all the islands. There is a lot of interest from institutions, museums and private entities and I am trying to approach the Ministry of Culture and publishing houses so that I can distribute the book when it is completed along with other events in the Greek community.
“In addition, a few months ago I received an invitation from Yale University to present this project (it was launched at the end of April) but due to COVID it was postponed until after the summer.”
“Our main concern and deepest aspiration is to ensure the support of the project via sponsors who will also treat the material produced as part of their own legacy.
We are seeking sponsors-fellow travelers who will join us on this journey to discover these unchartered and forgotten fragments of our heritage … of our country.”
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