Yiorgos Kordakis, a Greek photographer who was one of my favorite discoveries in Arco Madrid, contributes to Camera Obscura with an article about his series of large format Polaroid Global Summer. He explains why he is fascinated by sea and summer holidays, and why he wants to compare the differences between places and states. How people enjoy the summer in USA, in Romania and India? Yiorgos Kordakis also explain that he is not interested in shooting in a journalistic style, but he prefers to be distant from the subject. The results are his wonderful photographs with tiny and blurred people under the infinite sky, all different or all the same?
Following text and images by Yiorgos Kordakis.
I was born and raised in Greece, a country surrounded by the sea, the reason why my relation with water soon became a very intimate one. You see, we Greeks tend to consider our country as the best possible destination for one’s summer holidays, so we usually choose not to travel abroad while the summer lasts. Relatively, one could easily say that there is an unbreakable bond among the people of Greece, the Mediterranean Sea and the Greek beautiful islands. Having this notion in mind, I came up with the idea of this project, curious to learn how the people of other countries around the globe spend their own summertime; this project tends to record the different ways people all over the world enjoy their summer and the sea. Nevertheless, my interest hasn’t been on shooting this project through a reporter’s view. I liked more the idea of thinking my self as a far observer and I deliberately kept a distance from the scenery I was shooting at times.
My whole perspective was based on the vision I have when imagining the earth, and everything it holds on it, as being photographed from high above the sky. If this vision could be actually depicted on a film we would then realize the charisma that water has, that is to function as a bewitching huge blue magnet that attracts all of us humans.
Just imagine that globally, everyday, millions of people fly, drive or walk to reach exotic destinations, beaches, pools, rivers or parks just to be closer to water. Maybe that could be scientifically explained by the fact that we spend the first 9 months of our creation swimming in some other water, the “liquid of life”…
So, my whole photographic perception came from this vision of mine, that we could see ourselves from the sky, on a global scale.
At this point I must admit that, besides the fact that I really love technology, I don’t like the digital turn that Photography has taken over the last years. Nevertheless, I do shoot digital when I work for commercial reasons but I am not yet ready to move into that area for my personal projects. Therefore, for this present project I used an Arca Swiss 4×5 camera which made the whole process very difficult, basically because of the usually high temperature of summer locations, plus the existence of a lot of sand in the same areas, which is always a problem.
I decided to use Polaroids instead of conventional films for several different reasons, before Polaroid’s announcement regarding the discontinuance of its Films Production. When I first heard the news I was so shocked that I rushed into purchasing as many films as I could. Today, I just enjoy the fact that “Global Summer” might be the last Project done with Polaroids, and to me this could sound even as slightly romantic… as being the remnant of an era!
There were two things I was seeking for my shots: Interesting, photographically speaking, locations and a “good contrast of summer”. Finally, I felt astonished when I realized the different ways people enjoy summer, something I had never thought of up to the moment I decided to do this project, to study and get prepared for my trips. On #18 for example, you can see people having fun on an artificial beach and the fake wave. This is a shot taken in USA. These people, mainly tourists, have travelled from all over the world to visit this place, but I can’t imagine my self or any other Greek enjoying an artificial beach. On the other hand, in #8 which was taken in India, I saw people getting into water with their clothes on, because of their culture, while on the beach there were all kind of animals wondering around, among people. You can actually see a white cow among them in this shot. Once again, I fail to imagine such a scene in any western country. I also realized that Indians go the beach to interact socially, and they remain there long after the sunset, when another party begins, with food served, lights and music on. In #36 which was shot in Budapest, where people don’t have access to the sea and lakes are a few miles away, people chose to enjoy the sun on public pools. These pools are actually natural mineral springs, busy even when it snows, but it is so interesting that such landscapes can be found only in one, unique part of the world. It adds so much to that “global” contrast I was seeking. I also visited Beirut, which is surrounded by the sea, but instead of long crowed beaches, I found numerous pools, both private and public, most of them being right next to the sea. It seems that Lebanese prefer these pools more than the sea, where they definitely enjoy themselves. I haven’t yet found another place with so many pools, especially when the sea is so close and easily accessible.
#4 is another interesting place I visited during my journey. It’s a famous beach on the island of Zakinthos, in Greece. This is a completely remote place, the only access to it being by the sea. I had to visit the island three times before I managed to take this shot. People go there by boats of different kinds and sizes, but when the sea is even slightly rough, small boats can’t approach it. I wanted to shoot this photo with the beach full of people, and I was very unlucky with my first two attempts. There, the temperature usually rises above 40C and there is nowhere to hide. I was afraid that my camera would “melt”. In any case, it was always interesting and funny the way people reacted before a huge camera in the middle of a beach. Americans seemed more relaxed as they have a great photographic culture and they are accustomed to these things, Greeks were confusing it with a video camera and were asking questions like “which TV channel are you from?”, Indians used to gather around me and look at me like if I were from Mars! It has all been part of the priceless experience one gets in such cases and it was always nice to chat with people, even though I felt like replying to the same questions at such a point that I felt like I was needlessly repeating my self over and over again! I finally chose these certain photos out of the whole project because they represent both the global and the contrast I was looking for. I would love to go on shooting endlessly more and more locations and places around the world, but unfortunately I had to accept that this the end of an era.