Stratos Kalafatis, a photographer living in Thessaloniki, exhibits till 29th of April at the Bernier/Eliades Gallery in Brussels. His photos show a careful mix of genres, where landscape merges with portraiture, archaeological photography, and hybrid still life: the stacked animal skulls, a macabre objet trouvé, familiarizes us with systematic death. He aims his lens for instance at an amputated statue, evoking the passage of time and its ravaging influence. The place where these statues were found, as well as the ruins and ancient monuments is at the Tenagi of Paggaio. Intrigued? Just read further…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Archeologists found in that area the remains of an ancient city which had the same layout as the city of Rome. It is also the region where the battle of Philippi in 42 A.D took place: Octavian and Marc Antony faced Brutus and Cassius in the greatest Roman civil conflict. This was the inspiration and incentive for Kalafatis’ new body of work. The historic remains and the byzantine heritage are now under UNESCO protection. Taking this ancient place where the battle of Philippi took place led the artist to use the phrase written by Shakespeare: “Thou shalt see me at Philippi”. It is the warning that the Shakespearean character known as Caesar’s ghost gives to Brutus. The words are said in Shakespeare’s tragic play “Julius Caesar”. The events of the play are based on historical events surrounding the life and death of the Roman emperor, Julius Caesar. Stratos Kalafatis, using the traces of history as a connecting link, uncovers the active presence of the past in today’s reality. He connects old quests with new desires in an attempt to define the relationship between landscape and identity. This very region is also the artist’s place of birth. Stratos Kalafatis was born in Kavala in 1966.
The unity between the works and the diptychs in the exhibition adopts an approach familiar to Stratos Kalifatis: a skillful composition where the place embraces portraiture, archaeological photography and a kind of hybrid still life. The places in the series, enigmatic, seem to be a bad omen. The snow on the archaeological site of Philippi temporarily covers the scars of history.
However, this history, and the photographer’s toil to dig deep to gather knowledge does not suffice to avert the next war, the shadow of which weights now (again) on Europe…
On the opening of his third solo exhibition at Bernier/Eliades Gallery, we interviewed the artist: “I was born in Kavala, the new city close to Philippi”, says Stratos Kalafatis. “It is a port, next to a beautiful island Thasos. In this battle in Philippi, a city still existing today very close to Kavala, there were not less than 240.000 soldiers and horses, and the battle took 60.000 lives. The battle changed also the history of Rome.” Stratos Kalafatis continues. Indeed, we learn from the World History Encyclopedia, as 36 legions clashed, the bloody outcome would decide the future of the Roman Empire and finally bring to an end the 500-year old Roman Republic. “This is an ancient area, which dates from 3000 BC. Philippos, the father of the Great Alexander, built the town, next to a mountain where a lot of gold was found. Alexander also grew up in this area”, Kalafatis concludes.
You as a photographer, how did you start, what is your passion, what do you want to express… ?Stratos Kalafatis: “I started photography 40 years ago, as a boy of 16 in Kavala. I went to Thessaloniki to study athletics, as I wanted to be a champion runner. I then also had my first camera, a (Russian) Zenit, soon after that it was a Pentax. My passion for running soon developed in an interest for photography. Of course, photographers also love cameras. But then the non-internet environment was very different. In those days we needed books to see the work of other famous and talented photographers. So it took me a lot of time to get into photography. In Thessaloniki I met my first teachers, and after two years in the army I decided to move to the states. I took some classes at the Philadelpia Art Institute. I got drawn into this fantastic world of photography, and now I cannot separate my life from it.”
“I work in long projects,” Stratos continues, “this is not a project, just an exhibition, it is a part of my bigger work called Via Egnatia. It was a Roman Road, connecting Rome with Byzantine Constantinople. For the last two years I work on this idea. There was another long term project, Mount Athos. I spent with the monks five years there. (See the book published by Agra, Athos – The Colors Faith (with a foreword by Nikos Xidakis – 2014).
I spend a lot of time to make the research, etc. I also participated in the European Portrait exhibition, which was also held here at the Bozar in Brussels. So I am familiar with Brussels.”
Indeed, Stratos Kalafatis completed long-term photo projects such as Archetypal Images, Calendar 1998-2002, the Saga, Archipelago, besides Athos – The colors of faith…
The exhibition runs until April 29 at the Gallery Bernier/Eliades, Rue du Châtelain, 46, Brussels 1050. The gallery is open Tuesday- Saturday 12:00-18:00. Tel. 2 640 55 04. More info www.bernier-eliades.com See also Agra Publications: www.agra.gr