A talk with … Anna Grevenitis
Anna Grevenitis from the USA is joining STEYPA with six pictures showing her daughter in Iceland. Read more about her project(s) in our interview with her.
When did you first become interested in photography?
I started taking photographs about 10 years ago, I took a few classes and studied film and film processing, but a year into it, because of the prohibitive cost of film and film developing, I decided to use digital medium instead. Learning, trying to improve my skills for many years and feeling I really wasn’t going anywhere when I decided in June 2013 to document my daughter’s life for a whole year—from birthday 9 to birthday 10, a series I entitled “project 9”. This gave me the opportunity to discover how important it was for me to make images every day. In June 2014, I started taking pictures of my son every day as well as of my daughter (I never stopped after her 10th birthday—“project 9” is on-going).
How did your photography develop over the years?
I always was interested photographs as an art. At museums, I would find myself lingering in front of photographs more than any other medium. The immediacy of photography is what I feel I am drawn to the most. It happens right there at that moment and then it is sealed, fixed on paper for every one (or no one) to see.
What is your relationship to Iceland?
This may sound odd, but I knew Iceland through listening to Bjork. I really had no idea how incredible the country was before I set foot on the Icelandic soil.
How do you percieve Icelandic culture and nature?
While traveling around Iceland in August 2015 I experienced something akin to an existential discovery. I was there only 12 days, but it felt like a month or two. Everything was so intense. The weather, the landscape, the solitude, the beauty. Even though I have travelled to very beautiful places in the world (U.S. and Canadian National Parks, Caribbean beaches, Greek countryside and islands), I have never seen such pure and eloquent natural beauty as I have witnessed in Iceland. We started reading the Sagas of the Icelanders (specifically Gisli Sursson’s Saga) in the evening as a family after a day of exploring. We got drawn into the myths and legends and the ethos of the Icelandic people through these stories. It was really an amazing experience.
What is your favorite place in Iceland?
It has to be a tie between the most western part of the Westfjords and the Strandir Coast.
How can we see Iceland in your STEYPA project?
I photographed my family throughout our 12 day stay in Iceland. I am trying to show through the series our reactions to this incredible country. Out of place yet here for a reason. “a place for all things” shows us foreigners fitting in somehow.
What inspires you to take pictures?
I take photographs as a daily ritual. I take photographs of my daughter, my son (and I just started a series of daily self-portraits) in a search for understanding my surroundings and the place I inhabit in my world. It is journaling through photography.
What role does photography play in your life?
Photography is my life. It is a daily ritual. A creative outlet. A meditation.
What working methods do you use?
I work with a digital camera and most of the time I use a 35 mm fixed lens. Sometimes I add flash to dramatize the effect and emphasize the idea of witnessing and fixing a moment in time. I used to try and capture moments, but I am now more and more directing people involved in the shot. I am stepping away from documenting in some instances and going more towards fabricating a moment in time—a photographic tableau that has its source in a moment, but then becomes something uniquely made up. A balance between fact and fiction.
You mainly take pictures of people in your life – how is their reaction to being photographed by you?
I have been taking pictures of my daughter every day since 2013. In 2015 I added my son to the mix. She is not very happy about it, but I just do it. With my son, there is more of an exchange. He wants to participate in the process, has ideas, it is a cool collaboration. As for my extended family and friends, they are slowly getting used to it. They know by now that I will just photograph moments as part of our time together.
You have a background within literature and language – can you use that knowledge in your photography? Does it inspire you?
I am always reading. I read novels mainly. Part of my reality is lived through books, I find so many questions and answers in seeing the world through the mind of the authors I explore. Of course I am not the first one to link photography with other art media. I once read a quote by Diane Arbus who said in order to be more creative with our photography it is important to consume inspiration from places outside of photography. Arbus shares that where she gained some of her inspiration was from reading. She would not read something and then try to make it into a photograph, but rather she could feel inspired anytime by other sources (literature especially) and get a boost in her creativity.
Will you please tell more about your on-going series “fixer” that was exhibited at the XY Atelier in New York in 2015?
Last Spring I enrolled in a lighting class in order to broaden my knowledge of lighting and to start incorporating artificial lighting in my images. As I was utilizing speed light in my daily photos, I realized that the images were becoming more “fixed.” My presence as a photographer was more permeable, and I was intentionally creating an image and fixing it into memory. I was stepping away from the anecdotal snapshot and creating a photographic tableau that was composed and held together by the purposeful lighting.
At that time, I was reading “My Struggle” by Karl Ove Knaussgaard and I was struck by the resemblance between what I was trying to achieve through my photographs and what he was expressing in book 1: “Understanding the world requires you to take a certain distance from it. Things are too small to see with the naked eye, such as molecules and atoms, we magnify. Things are too large, such as cloud formations, river deltas, constellations, we reduce. At length we bring it within the scope of our senses and we stabilize it with fixer. When it has been fixed we call it knowledge.”
Thank you, Anna, for answering our questions!
Anna Grevenitis at STEYPA
Proofreading/Editing: Melinda Kumbalek